Call Me Treezy: Latrell Harris’ journey to Archers’ roster
By Austin Owens | Aug 17, 2021
When Latrell Harris was in 11th Grade, he made the decision to move 1,519 miles away from his family and home in St. Catharines, Ontario to Highlands Ranch, CO in pursuit of an NCAA Division I scholarship.
He stayed with former University of Denver head coach Jamie Munro and his family during his time in the United States. They’d met when Jamie’s son, Colin -- who’s currently at Georgetown -- previously stayed in Canada to play box lacrosse.
Moving to a different country and unfamiliar surroundings while still in high school, Harris learned about himself and matured.
“The biggest culture shock for me was not having my family there,” Harris said. “There was definitely a lot of self growing at a young age, and I definitely didn’t understand it at the time. But now looking back at it, I can definitely see a lot of self maturity going on when you start to do things on your own. But I liked it. It was a good growing period for me.”
Harris was selected 160th overall by the Guelph Storm in the 2014 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, but he made lacrosse his priority.
His play on the field garnered the attention of Division I programs, and Harris was able to make an official visit to High Point University in 2015. Shortly after, he committed to play for the Panthers.
With a scholarship in hand, Harris returned to Canada and continued to play junior lacrosse, but he received a text in the summer of 2016 that changed the trajectory of his career.
“I lived pretty close to the rink so I was biking there. I looked down at my phone and I had a text. It just said, ‘Latrell, your grades aren’t meeting our standards. So we’re going to have to disqualify your scholarship,’’ Harris said. “It was just a brutal way to find out. Mid-summer when we had already had the visit.”
From there, Harris talked with his family about next steps. It didn’t take long for him to start considering turning pro. He talked with his cousin, Cannons SSDM Tyson Bell, who suggested he go to a combine and put his name into the NLL Draft. That would have required him to renounce his NCAA eligibility, however.
Harris talked to his mother, who told him that if he went into the draft and decided to turn pro, she wanted him to get a degree by attending a Canadian University.
At just 18 years old, Harris found himself playing professional lacrosse -- he was still in high school at the time.
He went to Brock University in St. Catharines and continued garnering attention with his stellar play in both box and field.
That led him to the Canadian national team for the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Netanya, Israel at just 20 years old.
He was able to play alongside and against the best players in the world, and he came back from that tournament a better player because of the experience.
“I learned the importance of getting ready for games. It was 20 minute quarters which made it a mental game as well,” Harris said. “With the long games, you had to be prepared, know the people you were playing against, and keep a good energy on the bench.”
Harris decided to throw his name in the ring once again when the PLL and MLL merged. Once in the Player Pool, Harris played the waiting game to see where he’d end up. He wasn’t selected in the 2021 Entry Draft, however, he was among the first crop of players picked up off waivers.
Archers head coach Chris Bates had his eye on Harris after seeing him in pro and at the World Championships. Just like that, Harris had his opportunity to make a mark in the PLL.
“He was just someone I got excited about,” Bates said. “With his indoor background, I just felt like he was going to be a good fit and my interactions with him were awesome. I really liked his excitement around the potential opportunity, and with his personality, I thought he’d be a great addition.”
The Archers already boasted one of the best rosters in the league, but they’d come up short of the championship in consecutive seasons. But Bates made it a priority to revamp the team’s defensive unit, wanting to be bigger and more physical on the back end.
Bates also had another point of reference when considering Harris, as Tom Schreiber has been a teammate of his since 2016 with the Toronto Rock and also played against him at the World Championships.
Schreiber has watched Harris turn from a raw prospect into one of the most promising defensive talents hailing from north of the border over the past five years.
“The first thing that stuck out with Latrell was just how much of a physical specimen he was. But then, it’s how poised and calm, cool, and collected he is,” Schreiber said. “He’s certainly a player well beyond his years with how he carries himself. But his strength and athleticism and his poise were so impressive.”
Harris was able to step in the locker room and get comfortable in a hurry. It helped to have familiar faces like Schreiber. But it’s Harris’ relationship with Dominique Alexander and Mark McNeill that helped the most.
Harris said that the pair of veterans are like big uncles to him and helped him find his footing within the locker room.
“21, 22, and 23. We’re close,” Harris said of his relationships with the pair. “They definitely came with open arms and have just guided me in the right direction. They said if I had any questions, don’t hesitate to ask, even if it wasn’t about lacrosse. Mark is such a down-to-earth person, you could have a conversation with him for four or five hours and not get bored. It’s unbelievable to have those guys beside me to help me.”
The plan was originally for Harris to be a hybrid LSM and short-stick defensive midfielder. But with Virginia LSM Jared Conners falling to the Archers at No. 5 in the College Draft, Bates slotted Harris in as the team’s third SSDM.
When he got to camp, he caught the attention of his teammates quickly.
“The two things that stand out about the way he plays and the way he carries himself are that he’s an incredibly smart player and he’s an incredibly humble player,” Archers defender Matt McMahon said. “The first thing that stood out was that he had great instincts but he was also a high-IQ player. When you combine that with the reps he’s had playing box for such a long time, you have a player that’s in the right place at the right time a lot of the game.”
That high IQ has shown in all facets of the game this season and helped him become an immediate impact player in the PLL.
Harris didn’t tiptoe into his first game with the Archers. He scored his first career goal in the second quarter against Atlas. When he got back to the sideline, he was pulled aside for an interview and had one of the best lines of the season.
“This team is so f****** sick,” he said.
“It’s something that fires you up for more than just that quarter or that game. It sticks with you because it was so pure,” McMahon said. “They put the camera right in his face in the moment in a moment where there was so much emotion and there was no filter. That’s just how he felt about the guys and the situation he was put into.
“...It was just an awesome moment that meant a lot to everybody and Latrell in terms of who he was. I think it just speaks volumes to how excited we all are to have him on the team. It had nothing to do with how funny the quip was. It was more about his gratitude to be on this team, and who he is as a member of this team is really important to us.”
From that moment on, Harris’ popularity among fans has continued to grow. He and the team ran with the joke, and he had a friend back home make up some shirts to give out.
Harris has become a staple in the Archers’ lineup from week to week, taking on big matchups in the midfield while also providing a transition threat.
He finished the regular season with four goals and an assist to go along with six caused turnovers and 11 ground balls. That’s tied for the eighth-best points total on the Archers and tied for third-best among midfielders on the team.
Harris has been a consistent point producer -- when it comes to defenders -- throughout his career to date. But it’s his fearlessness that’s exciting to see. He’ll regularly get up in the play when transitioning, set a pick, and then slip it to find himself open through the middle for a shot opportunity.
It looks as though defenses have discounted him because of the position he plays, and he’s responded by making them pay on the scoreboard.
“That’s alright...they can keep doing that,” Harris said with a laugh. “When I’m coming down in transition, I’m looking at Marcus (Holman). If they’re more towards him, I’ll look for Will Manny. If the pole cheats towards me or Will has a step, I’m going to pass it down and he’s going to nip it, because that’s what he does.
“There’s just those three options really. Pass to your left, pass to your right, or shoot. I’ve been pretty lucky and capitalized on the opportunities.”
With the weapons up front for the Archers, Harris is able to find the soft spots and capitalize in tight. He also blew a shot past Jack Kelly in Week 7 after slipping a pick in the two-man game with Holman.
Harris joked that the water spray on the net made the goal look a lot cooler than it actually was, but the sequence perfectly displayed how he reads the play and catches the defense unsettled.
“Even the plays that he doesn’t score on, he’s so smart,” Schreiber said. “He knows when to transition, he knows when to cut, he knows when to stay a bit higher. It’s just really opened up our transition game. When he has a pick or is a picker in the two-man game, he knows where to be and when to take calculated risks.
“We’ve seen him score goals but he’s making plays equally that are big for our team. Even when he doesn’t touch the ball, he’s brought new elements to our team offensively.”
The Archers finished the season at 5-4 and will be taking on Chaos in the quarterfinals on Friday in Salt Lake City. While the team is going to be dead set on living up to their own lofty expectations this year, Harris and his teammates are solely focused on the task at hand this weekend.
Despite that, the future is extremely bright for Harris. He’s got his eyes firmly set on 2028 and representing Canada in Sixes at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
He’s also joined the Black Lacrosse Alliance, and is working with the group to help build a better future for the sport.
“I know this opportunity doesn’t come around everyday. To have your name out there representing the Black Lacrosse Alliance, it’s really cool,” Harris said. “We had a meeting in Boston at training camp and just being in that circle, it just felt so powerful. I think we’re really starting to turn heads. A lot of kids are looking at lacrosse as their sport and just focusing every day and grinding.
“We’re starting to get more of the culture into lacrosse and you can’t help but smile at that. That’s what it’s all about. It feels really good.”
Harris has been having as much fun as possible both on and off the field since he entered the PLL. Whether it’s scoring goals, helping his team win games, or making peanut butter and jelly sandwich tutorials during weather delays, he’s enjoying every second of putting on the Archers jersey.
Over the next few weeks, he’ll be doing his best to help the Archers bring home their first PLL Championship in a month’s time. But based on his journey and how far he’s come over the last number of years, he’s an individual you can’t help but cheer for.
“There’s stuff you hear and are told and you just don’t know how it’s going to go,” Harris said of the Archers picking him up initially. “Especially with me not going to the NCAA, my name wasn’t really out there. They were really taking a chance on me and were hoping I’d step in and play field. I’m here now and it’s just getting better every day.”