Cowboy basketball: Harris Jr.’s dedication to changing his diet pays off in preseason

MBB Practice July 17-1147.jpg (copy)

OSU guard Chris Harris is focused on conditioning and dietary changes as he gets in shape for his first season with the Cowboys.

Chris Harris Jr. has forced himself to give up honey barbecue chicken strip sandwiches.

They are his favorite item on the menu at Whataburger, a staple in his home state of Texas. It hasn’t been easy for Harris, a freshman guard on the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team, to alter his diet, but he doesn’t mind if it helps him endure the Cowboys’ preseason practices.

New eating habits and workouts with strength and conditioning coach Jake Manzelmann have helped Harris modify his body. Since Harris arrived at OSU, he has dropped about 20 pounds, Manzelmann said.

“The first couple months, it was hard because I really didn’t know what to do,” Harris said. “But then as the months went on, as the days went on, I started seeing my body transform, and I was like, ‘OK, maybe Jake knows what he’s talking about,’ so then I really took it in and started really being disciplined on my body, and it changed a lot.”

Harris came to Stillwater as a top-13 recruit in Texas, according to 247Sports. At South Garland High School, he could maintain his spot as a star on his team without worrying about how many fast food meals he was enjoying, but his situation changed when he met with OSU coach Mike Boynton.

Soon after Boynton started recruiting Harris, they had talks that revolved around expectations for Harris’ body transformation. Boynton, who knew Harris throughout his high school years, had no doubt in Harris’ dedication to the goal.

“So when I first got here on campus, when we took our pictures, he was like, ‘Chris, you will never look like this again,’” Harris said. “And that’s when I bought in.”

With advice from Jenny Boynton, who is the Cowboys’ nutritionist and Mike Boynton’s wife, Harris changed his day-to-day menu.

After two meals, he grabs a protein bar or fruit at the end of the day instead of going to a drive-thru. He might be especially hungry after putting in extra repetitions on the court with roommate Avery Anderson, but he is determined to stick to his new routine.

Sophomore guard Isaac Likekele has noticed Harris’ effort.

“The moment he came in here, at first it was a little struggle," Likekele said. "But he got used to it. And really, he looks way better than he did in June when he first got here, and you can see it on the court. You can see it in his conditioning when he runs.”

The Cowboys’ season starts in early November, but Harris’ work ethic is already paying off. At 6 feet, 3 inches and about 204 pounds, Harris has realized it’s become easier to run sprints, and his vertical leap has heightened.

Boynton said Harris’ quick willingness to evolve indicates his maturity.

“It just shows you his commitment level,” Boynton said. “I’m sure he still really likes Whataburger. I think he loves basketball a little bit more.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com