Rick Harrison (’85), who received his bachelor’s degree in Bible and Elementary Education from CSU, returned as the Lady Defender basketball coach in 2018 and is looking forward to the 2019–20 season. “I am very excited about this season coming up. God is bringing in some great, godly ladies. They can play some basketball too,” he adds with a smile.
Harrison played Defender basketball all four years when he was a student at CSU. He was named team MVP, Conference MVP, NAIA District 19 All-District First Team and NCCAA All-American First Team.
“He was a quiet leader. He let his game show what he was going to do,” recalls former teammate Mark Meyers (’85). “He was the star of the team, the true All-American, but he was a humble guy.” Meyers recalls Harrison’s ability to innovate and adapt on the floor—as well as his ability to dunk. “I don’t even think he would realize how high he was getting up at times. I’d watch him go up planning to do a beautiful finger roll, and when he realized how high he was, he’d switch mid-air and slam it.”
Brian Eichelberger, who played with Harrison for three years, agrees. “He led by his example on the court with his play and by his steady discipline. He was the best player on our team from his sophomore through senior year, and he often was the best player on the court, period. He could jump; he was flexible; he had great body control with and without the ball, and he was a good shooter and could often score at will.”
“He could find a way to get us points when we needed them,” echoes Meyers. “When we played larger, public universities, they underestimated us because we went to a Bible college; he made them realize ‘these guys are better than we thought they would be.’”
Harrison was asked by then-coach Jim Huckaby to be on the Defender 5 team. This group of CSU basketball players traveled to minister in churches, camps and youth events, and ran basketball camps across different states. Harrison’s favorite part about being on Defender 5 was traveling with his team members. Although he’s grateful for the basketball career God allowed him to have, he admits, “I am more thankful for the players that I was able to play with. We had a lot of fun together, and we are great friends to this day.” He also says meeting his wife was “certainly my favorite part about coming here.” Harrison and his wife, Christine, met at CSU as students and now have three married sons and five grandchildren with a sixth on the way.
Harrison learned in his four years at CSU that being flexible in life is even more important than adapting on the court. He says, “I need to live my life with my hand open and allow God to take things out and put things in as He chooses.”
Journey Back to CSU
After Harrison graduated, he served as a Christian school athletic director, basketball coach and soccer coach. In 2009, Harrison became facilities director of Colonial Hills Baptist Church and then moved on to Northland International University as recruiter and head coach of both men’s and women’s basketball teams. He later coached and supervised basketball clinics in South Carolina before returning to CSU.
As a coach, Harrison goes beyond improving his players’ skills by facilitating outreach opportunities for his teams. One of those is a missions trip to the Czech Republic. God led Eichelberger, his former teammate, to become a missionary in the European country. When the opportunity arose five years ago for someone to help lead a Christ-centered basketball camp, Eichelberger knew just whom to call. “We both played together for Coach Huckaby, and it was his influence in both of our lives that instilled a ministry heart. We knew that through basketball you could help people achieve potential they never envisioned they could achieve,” says Eichelberger. “The Czech people love relationships and needed exposure to someone who would seek to motivate with praise. Clearly to me, Rick fit the bill.”
This past summer, Harrison led a team to the Czeck Republic, including CSU student-athletes. “We minister to them by showing them Christ’s love through our coaching,” Harrison says. “Nothing’s better than serving together.”
“I have been so pumped by the four summers Rick has spent in our city conducting the citywide basketball camp,” admits Eichelberger. “The kids love him. The Czech teen assistants love him. His team that he brings loves him. The Czech coaches love him. Why? He’s real. He’s kind. He knows how to conduct a basketball camp. He sees potential in the players and motivates them to improve. But most of all, his ministry has opened up many doors into the spiritual hearts of the Czech people.”
With the Lady Defender basketball team, Harrison emphasizes the importance of serving one another, the student body and the community. In his many years of coaching, Harrison realized how much he enjoys being a part of his players’ lives and working with them on a daily basis. He admits, “The biggest highlight for me coming back to CSU is being the ladies’ coach. I love being their coach, and there is nothing I love more than working with them and just being around them. We are put together to sharpen each other.”
Meyers says his friend’s skills in observation, analysis and encouragement are assets to Harrison as a coach. “He knows the game, and he’s able to communicate what he’s learned,” Meyers furthers. “He could work with each player and their idiosyncrasies to make them the best they can be.”
“I believe he is an excellent coach because his first priority is using basketball to spiritually impact his players,” Eichelberger continues. “He wants them to believe in themselves. He wants them to believe in the power of God. He is preparing them for life. I would be totally comfortable and very excited if he coached my kids in college!”
“My goal is always to be the best coach I can be for my players,” he says. “I am always studying to make myself better, but I am more concerned with them knowing that I love them and that I want to push them to be all that they can be for God.”
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