Gatlinburg-Pittman's Haris Price is Player of the Year
Leadership was high on the priority list for Gatlinburg-Pittman point guard Haris Price entering her junior season.
But Highlanders coach Katie Parton said Price really committed to that leader role after a loss to rival Pigeon Forge in December.
“I think she realized her role could no longer just be our go-to player,” Parton said. “She has to be a go-to player that can lead us. We didn’t lose another game until our Fulton game (in the district final).”
Price led the Highlanders to 17 straight wins following that 53-52 loss on Dec. 6. Her ability to carve up defense and score at will combined with a knack for finding open teammates makes her the All-County player of the year.
“(The Pigeon Forge game) kind of lit a fire under us,” Price said. “I just started to make better decisions on shooting when I’m open and when to attack, when to pass. … I kind of had to control (my emotions) and be more supportive and more encouraging to the team.”
Few people could fill a stat sheet the way Price did this season.
She averaged 16 points, nearly six assists, more than three steals and more than four rebounds in leading G-P the region semifinals. Two of her best games may have been in tournament losses to Fulton (29 points) and Christian Academy of Knoxville (28 points).
Cocke County coach Jeremy Byrd saw what Price could do up close in the midst of that 17-game win streak.
The Lady Red fell 56-52 to G-P on Jan. 20. Byrd said the only point guard he saw all year that was better than Price was probably Science Hill’s Tianna Tarter. The coach said he only thought Tarter was a little better because she has a three-inch advantage over the 5-foot-3 Price.
Byrd said Price just didn’t appear to have any weaknesses.
“Price can dribble with either hand and pass the ball very well,” Byrd said. “If you force her to where you think she’s weak, she’s just as good. She’ll get to the lane, get to the basket and find the open player. “She’s just smart.”
That decision making is something that’s improved and now is almost instinctive for Price. What makes the Highlanders so difficult to defend, in Parton’s mind, is Price’s ability to pull up and shoot all over the floor.
“I think at the end of the day she’s a good basketball player that has good instincts,” Parton said.
“Her ability to pull up anywhere on the court is one of her greatest qualities. If you’re not paying attention to her, she will light you up.”
Parton said Price’s technical skillset can’t get much better. But her mental game, the leadership she continued to show late in the season, is what could take the Highlanders to the next level. Her assists per game number has risen by nearly two since Price was a freshman.
“I’d rather make a good pass than a good shot,” Price said. “I still think leadership is something I need to work on. If I have a negative attitude, it’ll bring the rest of the team down.”