Babb-Harrison a cut above
Jaylen Babb-Harrison made the cut coming out of the Niagara River Lions’ training camp and since then he has been making a lot more cuts.
Since arriving in St. Catharines, the 28-year-old Ajax native, who apprenticed for two years at a barber shop while in high school, has been cutting the hair of his teammates.
“I feel like I am one of the only people who does both barbering and professional basketball and it’s fun,” the 6-foot-4 guard said. “It gives me a chance to bond with the guys and talk at a different level with my teammates one-on-one and I love cutting hair so it’s a win-win.”
The cutting and trimming has allowed the former Eastern Kentucky scholarship player to get to know his teammates better.
“We have deeper conversations than we might have in practice and it builds better and stronger bonds.”
Looking at the various hairstyles of the Niagara River Lions players, it would seem that Babb-Harrison has his work cut out for him keeping everyone satisfied, but he’s not worried.
“I am pretty good at what I do so I can adapt to any hairstyle.”
He finds that barbering and playing hoops are complementary.
“You have to have people skills, you have to be on time, you have to have professionalism, all that, They are both professions at the end of the day. You pick and choose and take things from each one.”
River Lions head coach/GM Victor Raso appreciates Jaylen Babb-Harrison’s off-court work.
“You know how barbers are. They talk to you and see how your day is going. He is almost like a team therapist in that regard, The guys are open and comfortable with him because that is who he is.”
Raso also likes what his player brings to the court.
“Jaylen has been awesome for us this year. There has been a few years where he hasn’t had the opportunity offensively to have a role like he has with us and he has been great. He has had a 25-point game a 30-point game, he has come off the bench, he has started and I have been talking to him all year about how good he is when he is not scoring 25 or 30 and he is doing more than just being a scorer. He has embraced the role of not just being a shooter but a basketball player and he is exactly what Antwi (assistant GM Atuahene) had hoped he would end up being.”
Babb-Harrison has started six of nine games for Niagara this season and is second on the team with 15. 2 points per game. He is also averaging 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game in what is a perfect environment for him.
“They gave me the confidence to go out and play. They don’t try and restrict me in any way and they tell me to go play my game and do my thing.”
That approach is straight forward.
“My game is staying aggressive and having an attacking, scoring and playmaking mentality.”
Babb-Harrison likes where his game is heading.
“I feel like I am midway through my basketball career and right now I am coming into my own. My future is bright and we will see what happens.”
He is confident he will continue to have pro offers come his way.
“I am just going to play my game and whoever sees me and likes what they see that is how that will work.”
Connections landed him in Niagara.
“Twi (River Lions assistant GM Antwi Atuahene) is a friend of mine and he has recruited me for a little bit. This is the year I decided to come over here,” he said. “They watched me play last season and they told me it was a family atmosphere and that they would really take care of me. That helped me make my decision.”
It has turned out to be the perfect fit.
“I love it in Niagara. It’s a lot of little things: the fans; the culture is great; the coaching staff is great; and, I feel that we have a really special team that bonds and gets along with everybody on the team.
Before joining the River Lions, the last time he played basketball was in the summer of 2020 with the CEBL’s Honey Badgers.
“I built up my barber business during COVID because I didn’t really want to go overseas during the pandemic. I stayed home and worked on my business because I knew I was going to play here in the summer.”
Babb-Harrison collected six points, three rebounds and three assists as the River Lions dropped a 92-81 decision to the Guelph Nighthawks before 875 fans Friday night at the Meridian Centre.
The Nighthawks dominated the boards, out-rebounding the River Lions 50-33.
“I think it had a lot to do with it,” Niagara coach Victor Raso said. “Some of their guys had 15 boards and nine boards and that kind of stuff is unacceptable.”
Raso felt his team lacked the required intensity.
“It’s a new team in these last five games so part of it is getting to know each other,” he said. “The bigger part is that sense of urgency.”
The River Lions were without Xavier Sneed, who is off to the Charlotte Hornets’ summer league team, while Javin DeLaurier and Tyree White are at mini camp with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“If they make the summer league team then they will be with the Bucks and if they don’t they’ll be back here for the last game or two and Xavier will be back for the final four if we get there,” Raso said.
As well, Kassius Robertson has signed to play in Spain and will not return.
Guelph coach Charles Kissi enjoyed coaching at the Meridian Centre. The former Brock Badgers men’s basketball coach still resides in St. Catharines.
“This is always a good venue,” he said. “The crowd is always good and I’m 10 minutes from home.”
Nighthawks 91 River Lions 82
BPSN Player of the Game: Guelph’s Cat Barber with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists.
For the Niagara River Lions: Philip Scrubb 20; Thomas Scrubb 13; Oluseyi Ashaolu 12; Guillaume Payen-Boucard 10.
For the Guelph Nighthawks: Barber 20; Michael Bryson 19; Matt Neufeld 13.
Game stats: Rebounds: River Lions 33, Nighthawks 50. Field goal percentage: River Lions 45.2 per cent, Nighthawks 52.7 per cent. Turnovers: River Lions 9, Nighthawks 21. Free throws: River Lions 13-21, Nighthawks 4-6.
Up next: The River Lions are at Guelph Sunday at 2 p.m. before returning home to play the Hamilton Honey Badgers Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
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