Furman vs. College of Charleston

Furman vs. College of Charleston When: Tonight, 7 p.m.Where: TD ArenaRecords: Furman 7-11, 3-6 in SoCon; CofC 8-11, 4-6Tickets: cofcsports.com

A couple of days after Natasha Adair took over as the College of Charleston women’s basketball coach, she sat down with rising senior Latisha Harris.

As a new coach, Adair knew one of her first priorities would be to gain the trust and respect of the upperclassman on the team.

She had a simple question for the 6-3 center from Aynor, who had been a solid post player for the Cougars over the last three seasons: what do you want out of your senior season?

Harris told Adair that she wanted to be a difference-maker during her final collegiate season and hopefully play professional basketball after her college career was done.

It was exactly what Adair was hoping to hear.

“She wanted to be committed, she wanted to work hard, she had goals and aspirations after she was done playing here,” Adair said. “Sometimes when a new coach comes in, the older players don’t want to make a change. They’ve done things for so long under an old system they don’t want to change, but Latisha wasn’t like that at all. She wanted to get better.”

For Harris, that meant coming out of her protective shell and becoming a leader on and off the floor. It meant raising the bar. It meant winning the sprints during conditioning drills and wanting to be first in line and making hustle plays that showed her teammates she was committed to them.

Harris pushed herself all summer, getting into the best shape of her life. She dropped 20 pounds and ran a 6-minute mile during the team’s preseason conditioning workout when she returned to campus in the fall.

“Latisha has done everything we’ve asked of her, and it’s exciting to see,” Adair said. “I know how hard she has worked and I know how far she’s come. I see her improving every day. I don’t think she realizes how good she can be.”

Harris played for former Cougars coach Nancy Wilson for the past three years. Harris admits she was a little wary of Adair and the new coaching staff, but said it didn’t take long for her to realize that Adair is a force of nature, her positive energy rubbing off on everyone in the program.

“The first time I met the coaching staff, I was lifting weights in the gym and we had not been introduced,” Harris said. “All of a sudden they started yelling at me, not in a bad way, but encouraging me, and I was a little shocked. Coach Adair has a different attitude, not better or worse than coach Wilson, just different.

“It took me a while to get used to what coach Adair wants and what’s expected of me, but I really like the direction we’re going in.”

Throughout her career, Harris has shown flashes of her potential. As a junior, Harris averaged 8.8 points and 7.9 rebounds, but normally played less than 20 minutes a game.

This year, she’s averaging 13.4 points a game and a team-high 8.8 rebounds while averaging nearly 25 minutes a game. Harris has five double-doubles, including a monster 21-point, 15-rebound effort in the Cougars’ 72-62 win over East Carolina. In the Cougars’ uptempo style, Harris is able to keep up with the guards and score in transition.

“The way we play now fits my style better,” Harris said. “Coach Adair wants me to be aggressive. She wants me to stand my ground in the post. She wants me to get out on the break and finish around the basket.”

Adair believes that Harris has the potential to play professionally after her career at the College of Charleston is done.

“Her best basketball is still ahead of her,” Adair said. “I can see playing overseas, maybe even in the WNBA. She has some work to do, but the skillset and potential is there. It’s up to her.”

If basketball doesn’t work out, there’s always law enforcement in Harris’ future. Harris, who is majoring in sociology with a minor in criminology, comes from a family of police officers. She had an internship last summer with the Charleston Police Department.

“It was an awesome experience,” Harris said. “I learned so much about the police force and everything they do on a day-to-day basis for the public.”