Banned from playing with boys, Rikki Harris leads North Central girls

Banned from playing with boys, Rikki Harris leads North Central girls


Banned from playing with boys, Rikki Harris leads North Central girls


North Central's Rikki Harris

North Central’s Rikki Harris

INDIANAPOLIS — William Harris couldn’t believe what the other parents were telling him about his fifth-grade daughter Rikki.

More than 100 miles away from home across state lines, Rikki had come to play basketball against the boys, just as she had done since she picked up a basketball at age 3 and started playing with her older brothers in the backyard. And she was good — really good — playing against some of the best boys in the country.

The parents of her teammates didn’t mind a girl playing with their sons, but parents of the opposing teams were fed up. And now they were coming together to say enough was enough. So Harris was not allowed to play with the boys anymore.

“She couldn’t play because ‘girls go faster than boys,’” William Harris said. “She was dominating the whole tournament. I was saying, ‘How can a girl be banned from playing with boys?’ I couldn’t believe it. Her team didn’t play without her. They didn’t play another game.”

Rikki Harris never played another game with the boys, but North Central’s standout sophomore is still proving to be one of the best players on the court for Class 4A’s top-ranked team and is considered one of the best 2019 point guard talents in the state.

Coming into Tuesday’s sectional game against Warren Central, Harris is averaging 17.8 points over 22 games this season for the undefeated Panthers (23-0) shooting above 50 percent that comes mostly from hard drives to the lane, breakaway layups or short-range jumpers.

Some girls never stand a chance defending the 5-10 guard when she comes barreling into the lane, fierce with her size and speed.

“Getting thrown around and tossed playing with the boys, it helped me a lot with the girls,” Harris said. “It makes you want to be stronger so you’re as strong as them. It makes you want to go faster so you’re as fast as them.”

North Central's Rikki Harris

North Central’s Rikki Harris

Early on, Harris admitted staying out of foul trouble was difficult. She felt playing with the girls “wasn’t the same game at all” and forced her to “slow down” the tempo she grew accustomed to playing against the boys. She caught herself still looking at the game differently — like a boy would — in her first few years with her girls AAU team.

Taylor Ramey noticed right away how much playing with the boys elevated Harris’ game when the two starting playing AAU ball together. Harris was one of those players none of the other teams wanted to face — to be fair, there were several players on that AAU team who fit that bill, several of who are now teammates at North Central.

“I’ve never played against her, which is a good thing,” Ramey said, laughing. “You can definitely tell she has the attack mode of a boy. She’s got a drive to her that no one is going to stop her.”

She probably caught some of that going through the ringer with her older brothers, both now 21. They never took it easy on her because she was a girl, which sometimes was taken a little too far. Harris’ father remembers she once came into the house crying, her lip and nose busted up.

HS girls basketball: Class-by-class sectional preview

Not that Harris minds anymore. She liked playing in the backyard with her brothers and misses being on the court with her former boys teammates, including Cathedral’s leading scorer Jarron Coleman. Without them, she isn’t sure she would be the player she is now.

In her own right, Harris excels at the game because she has remained dedicated. Much like when she would get up at 7 a.m. as a kid and shoot around in the backyard just to keep up with the boys, she takes the time to do the right things in practice that make her a great player.

“You can’t say enough about her,” North Central coach DeeAnn Ramey said. “One of her best qualities is that she is a complete team player and you have to have a guard like that, you have to have a point guard like that because when it gets down to crunch, she’s going to be the type of person that wants the ball, and that’s hard to find in players.”

Nothing about the way Harris speaks after a win reveals an ego, even when she scores a game-high 31 points as she did Jan. 21 against Lawrence North. Same thing goes for when she scores fewer than 10 points.

Every time, she is smiling. Because basketball has never been about being the best player for Harris.

“Seeing smiles on my teammates faces, all just having a good laugh, that’s the best part to me,” Harris said after the win over Lawrence North. “I feel like, lose or win, to see those smiles and to know that you played your best is the best part. If we would have lost this game and played like that, I would be just as happy as I am right now because my team gave it their all.”

Follow IndyStar reporter Jordan J. Wilson on Twitter: @Wilsonable07. 


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>> Kayana Traylor, Martinsville

The Martinsville junior is ninth in the state at 23.4 points per game. She also averages 4.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals. The Purdue commit has scored 30 or more points three times this season. She accounts for more than one-third of Martinsville’s offense. If she’s going strong, the Artesians will be a tough out. But if teams can find a way to slow her down, it might be a short tournament run.

>> Rachel McLimore, Zionsville

McLimore has made a big impact on Zionsville this season after transferring from Covenant Christian. She is averaging a team-high 21.1 points per game, but isn’t just one-dimensional — she also grabs 4.6 rebounds and leads the team with four assists per game. Her teammates benefit. Maddie Nolan is averaging 15 points per game. If these two get going at the same time, it could mean a long night for the Eagles’ opponents.

>> Tomi Taiwo, Carmel

Carmel’s Amy Dilk demands most of the attention from opponents, averaging 15.4 points per game. But Taiwo shouldn’t be overlooked. The junior is averaging 14 points and four rebounds per game. While she has just one game with more than 20 points, she is a consistent threat and can provide a quick offensive spark. She is averaging nearly three 3-pointers per game this season.

>> Sydney Parrish, Hamilton SE

The freshman is making a big impact for the Royals this season, averaging 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. She uses her 6-1 frame to work for buckets inside, but is also a threat from the perimeter. She is shooting 39 percent from behind the arc and has four games with three or more triples. Her presence opens up opportunities for other players like Bre Lloyd (14.6) and Malea Jackson (8.9).

— Matthew VanTryon


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