Harris wants to follow brother to US

TIM BARTON
Last updated 09:26 20/02/2013
Jake Harris
CRAIG SMICOX/Fairfax NZ

BRIGHT FUTURES: Jake Harris, left, and Daniel Bowkett have both made the New Zealand secondary schools football team which leaves for a tour of Britain and Ireland in April.

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Jake Harris can see the trail heading to Albuquerque.

The Kapiti College year 13 pupil would love to join older brother Joe on the football roster at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

It's a dream that probably came a step closer to reality this month when Harris was selected for the New Zealand secondary schools under-19 football side.

He is joined in the schools team, to tour Britain and Ireland, by Wellington College's Daniel Bowkett.

Harris, 17, is keen to continue his career in the United States college system and New Mexico would be his first preference.

"That's the dream at the moment. To be able to play over there and get an education at he same time - that seems ideal.

"It would be amazing to get the chance to play with my brother again. That would be the perfect outcome.

"It's not out of the question but there's still a long way to go. I have to make sure my [academic] grades are high enough and that I'm playing well enough.

"I have talked to the coaches over there [at New Mexico] a couple of times but only informally."

There is already a significant Wellington presence on the New Mexico roster, with Joe Harris joined this year by Caleb Hilbron (ex-Wellington College) and Joe Wypych (ex-St Pat's Town).

Former Hamilton Boys' High School player Mattie Gibbons is in his third year with the team and Nik Robson, another Kiwi, was with the side last year and has since joined Major League Soccer club Toronto.

New Mexico were among the leading college teams for the past two years, making the last 16 in the NCAA division one championship in 2011 and last year.

Joe Harris had a "redshirt season" in his freshman year last year, which meant he did not play in any of the championship matches.

However, he played in several other games and the benefit of a redshirt season is that his four- year scholarship will now be extended over five years.

Joe Harris is listed as a midfielder with New Mexico and Jake, who plays mainly as a defender, was reluctant to compare himself to his brother.

"I find it very tough trying to compare myself to Joe. Some parts of our games are similar and some are different. But growing up, he always set the bar for me," he said.

"We are good mates and when I told him about making the under- 19 side, he was almost more excited than I was."

Football has been a family vocation for the Harris brothers. Their father, Guy, has coached at national league level and an uncle, Billy Harris, was an All White and is now a football columnist.

"We've always had a ball at our feet," Jake said.

Jake, who is a central defender, plays his school football for Kapiti College but he also plays central league for Wellington United and this summer has played alongside Bowkett in the Team Wellington youth side.

Harris has not restricted himself to football, also playing tennis, golf and basketball.

"I gave everything a go that I could but slowly became more focused on football. I ran out of time to do the others."

A professional career is his ultimate ambition, though he remains realistic about his prospects. "To do something I love and get paid for it - that sounds perfect. But it's a long shot. So many people want to do it.

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"My first goal is to finish school and head over to the States."

Bowkett, 17, is the head boy at Wellington College and he is also keen to further his education and football career in the US.

A high academic achiever and an accomplished violin player, Bowkett hopes to be accepted by an Ivy League college.

A knee injury restricted his football opportunities last year but he is back at full fitness and leads the Team Wellington youth side. "I'm all good now and stronger than I was before."

A midfield player, who plays his club football for Miramar Rangers, Bowkett was a member of the New Zealand under-15 side which toured Singapore and Malaysia in 2010.

In the longer term, he has his sights set on making the New Zealand side for the 2015 Fifa under-20 World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand.

Bowkett and Harris have been key members of the Team Wellington youth side.

"They are both good kids with a great attitude and work ethic," coach Stu Pyne said. "They really want to learn and push on."

- The Dominion Post

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