Latrell Harris didn’t mean to make the NLL at 18.
Though he played many sports growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, lacrosse was the one that stuck. His large size for his age and appreciation for physicality meant lax fit him well.
As he progressed in the sport, he narrowed in on his focus: a college scholarship. That was the designated path for someone aiming at a career in lacrosse, and Harris intended to follow it.
Through box lacrosse, Harris met the Colorado-based Munro family, who had sent their son to Ontario to get some indoor experience. For his junior year of high school, Harris moved in with the family and attended Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch. The purpose of the move was simple – get a scholarship.
In opting to go, Harris forfeited his hockey career. He was drafted in the OHL when he was in grade 10, but lacrosse is what he preferred to pursue.
“I gave up my hockey dream to go to Colorado for the scholarship,” he said.
It worked. Latrell Harris accepted an offer from High Point and planned to have years of work payoff into a subsidized education. But the following summer before his senior year, he received a text out of the blue – his grades weren’t good enough, and his scholarship was revoked.
“I remember this very vividly,” Harris explained. “I was playing a Junior A game. I came home, looked at my phone, and I had a long-paragraph text. I didn’t even get to put my bag down yet. I read the message, I looked at my mom, and I said, ‘Mom, I gotta go.’ She asked where I was going. I said, ‘I don’t know, I just gotta go.’”
Harris said he wasn’t previously warned that his grades were enough of an issue that his scholarship was in question, and having it pulled away from him was a painful experience.
“It hit me in a very hard spot, because I moved very far from my friends and family to do one thing, and that was to get a scholarship,” he said. “It made me feel like, ‘This is your fault, you’re done, you’re not going to have a career.’
“You go to all these tournaments with all these club teams, you feel all these coaches on the sidelines, and you make your highlight videos,” Harris added. “It all leads up to one thing, and that’s the scholarship. Because I had a couple bad grades in high school, I just possibly lost my university career. That was the biggest goal I had for my high school career was just for that one thing, and it got taken away from me.”
Harris didn’t know what to do. The hockey option was gone, playing college lacrosse felt out of reach, and he wasn’t sure where to turn.
His cousin, Tyson Bell, told Harris about Everest Academy. Bell had attended the Vaughn, Ontario, academy when he was younger, and he recommended the prep school to his relative as a way to continue in the sport. Harris and his family got in touch with Clem D’Orazio, the coach at the academy at the time who now serves as assistant general manager for the New England Black Wolves. After talking for a handful of weeks, Harris visited the campus and was sold.
“I was pretty heartbroken for a while, but I got over it,” Harris said. “I went to Everest Academy, and they gave me a new life there, new beginnings. I turned into a great individual going to that school.”
That year was covered, but Harris didn’t know what to do after Everest. Again, Bell had the answer.
He suggested Harris throw his name into the 2016 NLL Draft at the age of 18. Harris thought about it, talked it over with his family, and figured he’d give it a shot.
“Totally blind,” he explained. “I put my name in, and waited to see what would happen.”
Harris went through the combine and scrimmages, then had exit meetings with a few teams. Just one team said it was interested – that was enough.
“There was only one team that said they were going to pick me,” Harris said. “I guess it shows.”
With the No. 12 overall pick in the second round of the 2016 NLL Draft, the Toronto Rock selected 18-year-old Latrell Harris while he was still in high school, and his family was there for it.
“It was very surreal,” he said. “I just proved myself big time right here that this is where you are, this is where you have to be, and the fact that a team is taking its chances on you like this, now it’s time to step up. You have to be mentally a step above everybody. You’re on a different pedestal now, so you can’t just be this regular lacrosse player anymore.”
Harris turned Toronto’s belief into a positive young career, earning a spot on the 2017 NLL All-Rookie Team and posting double-double point totals in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons. Now 22, he’s established himself professionally in lacrosse after accidentally getting drafted years before he expected.
Latrell Harris enrolled at Brock University to get his higher education, and though COVID-19 is complicating things, he said he looks forward to getting his degree.
When his scholarship disappeared, Harris thought his lacrosse career was dead. Instead, it gave his lacrosse career more life.
“I was young, and I was so in love with the idea of getting a scholarship, going away to school, living on your own and being with a team 24/7,” he explained. “Now, I’m at a Canadian university, I’m living from home, and I’m living a better life here. I get to see my family and friends whenever I want, I still have homecooked meals, my family still gets to come and watch me play rather than on a channel or on an app.
“New beginnings don’t mean there’s something not great coming out of it.”