COYLE — The sky seems a lot darker at night to Eric Harris.
That's not meant to be a metaphor for some ominous situation in Harris' life. It's a literal statement about what Harris sees when the sun goes down.
Until about 10 weeks ago, Harris had lived his entire life in Chicago, and attended Bogan High School, located on the city's south side, for 3½ years.
In December, he moved to Coyle with his father, who took a job at nearby Langston University.
The phrase “culture shock” doesn't even seem strong enough to describe the transition from Chicago, a city of nearly 3 million people, to Coyle, with a little more than 300.
But Harris just smiles and speaks anecdotally about the differences he's seen in moving from one of the country's largest cities to one of Oklahoma's smallest school systems.
“It surprised me that it gets so dark around here at night. You go to the city and it's all lights. I don't know how they drive their cars on the roads at nighttime,” he said with a laugh.
“Chicago is real loud and rowdy. Down here, it's quiet and laid-back. In Chicago, everything's fast-paced, but it's dangerous. Down here, everything slower, but it's safer.”
Harris saw the rough side of the big city growing up in Chicago. But the safety of rural Coyle, about 30 miles north of the Oklahoma City metro area, means a lot — especially to Harris' mother. Divorced from his father, she still lives in Chicago. Harris' father gave him the choice to stay in Chicago with his mother, or move to Coyle with him.
“Just being a basketball player, and not being in trouble, you still have to look over your shoulder, because you don't know whose out there,” Harris said. “Guys just take people's lives out there. Down here, I feel safer. When I told my mom I was moving here, she took it hard, but she said she knew I'd be safer instead of up there wandering the streets.”
According to Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association numbers, Coyle High School has an average daily attendance of about 72 students. Among OSSAA member schools, it ranks 398th out of 479. The Chicago Public Schools website lists Bogan's enrollment at 1,393.
But those numbers hardly scratch the surface of the lifestyle changes Harris has endured since arriving in Coyle on Dec. 1. But basketball was one of the easiest pieces of the change.
Harris gelled quickly with his new teammates, and since he joined the team, Coyle has continued to show consistent improvement, now ranked fifth in Class B.
“With him joining us halfway, our team chemistry needed a few games to gel, but everyone has taken him in,” Coyle coach Josh Sumrall said. “They don't see him as a threat. In fact, they've learned he can really pass the ball, and if you're open, he'll get you the ball. The camaraderie has been great, and he gives us another weapon.”
The Bluejackets will face Cave Springs in Beggs at 8 p.m. Thursday in the regional winner's bracket. Harris is averaging 10.7 points and 4.7 assists since joining the team, and more importantly, he's opening up the offense for others, including 6-foot-6 forward Tony Aska.
“I think Tony's the best player in Class B, and some other classes,” Sumrall said of Aska, who averages 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. “Teams really key on Tony, and they've had to adjust and guard Eric a little closer, too. So it's opened things up for Tony and everybody is benefiting from it.”
Coyle wasn't just a random landing spot for Harris' father, also named Eric Harris. He was an All-America basketball player at Langston, and one of his older sons played there as well.
So the younger Eric Harris knew the type of world he was moving to, and the transition couldn't have been smoother.
“I'm enjoying myself,” he said. “Having the time of my life.”