University of Washington

He was a UW star, Sonics’ sixth draft pick. Tenino legend’s scoring record still stands

Gordon Harris, middle, was a 6-foot-10 basketball star at Tenino High and the University of Washington in the 1960s. His state tournament records still stand after more than 50 years.
Gordon Harris, middle, was a 6-foot-10 basketball star at Tenino High and the University of Washington in the 1960s. His state tournament records still stand after more than 50 years. Courtesy

The Tenino Tower still stands tall in Washington’s high school basketball lore.

In 1963, a 6-foot-10 kid named Gordy Harris, dominated the Class B state tournament with 164 points in four games, including 54 in a double-overtime game against Davenport. Both were - and still are - tournament records. For an encore, Harris made the giant leap from Washington’s smallest classification for prep basketball to the highest level of college hoops.

Harris played three seasons at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1967 after scoring 1,054 points, eighth most in school history at the time.

On Sept. 29, a small group of family and friends gathered at Tenino’s First Presbyterian Church to honor Gordon “Butch” Harris. Harris died in May at his Florida home. He was 71.

Despite his success at the UW, Harris has not been inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame. More than half of the 23 men’s basketball players in the Husky Hall of Fame scored fewer points than Harris, although they played before 1950 when points were harder to come by.

Playing in an era when freshman had to sit out, Harris played just 75 games. Of the school’s 37 1,000-point scorers, only Steve Hawes (1970-72) played fewer games. Hawes scored 1,516 points in 73 games before going on to play 10 seasons in the NBA.

Harris was selected in the sixth round of the 1967 NBA drafted by the Seattle Sonics. He was also selected in the second round by the Oakland Oaks in the American Basketball Association draft. It was the first draft for each franchise but Harris chose other pursuits.

Harris made the Oaks’ roster but when management asked him to take a $2,000 pay cut, he declined and left the team, said sports historian Jim Stinson. He never played a game as professional.

Harris earned a chemical engineering degree at UW and went on to work at Hanford, said Shawn O’Neal, Harris’ nephew. Harris didn’t particularly like the work, O’Neal said, and he went on to work as a cab driver, sheet rock hanger and trade show organizer. He served as president of the drywall union in Seattle.

164 Points Gordy Harris scored in four games during the 1963 Class B State Championship Tournament. The record still stands.

Stinson, a former coach at Davenport High who wrote two books on the history of the B Tournament, said Harris remains a tall figure in B Tournament history.

“You a buy a program and you turn to see who scored the most points and there he is, still,” Stinson said. “And everybody remembers the nickname.”

He was a private man who rarely talked about his exploits on the basketball court. “He was super humble and quiet,” O’Neal said.

But he was talented enough to be remembered by at least one of the game’s most famous names.

At the Sept. 29 memorial service, O’Neal, a former sportswriter, told a story about the time in 1993 when he had dinner with legendary former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden at a Puyallup steakhouse. O’Neal mentioned to Wooden that his uncle played against his teams. Even though Wooden coached 826 games and had retired 18 years earlier, he remembered. “He’s was from Tenino, right?”

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