Caelum Harris: The Next Gilas Pilipinas Star?

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Caelum Harris Gilas

Caelum Harris to Banner Gilas Pilipinas in FIBA Tournaments

As early as now, Gilas Pilipinas is looking at the future and is searching for the next Fil-am sensation Jordan Clarkson. The next prospect might be in the country right now playing in the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) for Fil-am Nation Select.

His name is Caelum Harris. He is a high-flying 6-foot-6 forward who is currently playing for Phhoenix Prep, an upstart basketball academy that plays a national schedule on the Overtime Elite circuit in the United States.

In the NBTC, Harris is showing his all-around game, especially with his highlight dunks. He plays in Fil-Am Nation Select with another Gilas prospect, Andy Gemao. With Phhoenix Prep, the 19-year-old teenage sensation is averaging 2.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. It’s not a mind-boggling statistic, but he still has a lot to improve, considering how talented athletes are playing in the US.

Gilas Pilipinas Prospect Caelum Harris (Image Source)

After three successful seasons playing high school basketball in Tennessee, Harris decided to transfer because he felt like he had plateaued and wasn’t improving at the pace he needed to fulfill his potential. He took a risk and moved across the country to Arizona to play for Phhoenix Prep for his senior season.

Harris was born in Nashville. His paternal grandmother hails from Marigondon, Cebu, here in the Philippines. Harris knew he might not be the best player for any team right now, but he continues to thrive.

“I know my game and I know that I might not be the best player, but I know if I’m on the floor with anybody I can stand my ground,” Harris said. “So, I don’t think there’s a real motivation to show people, ‘Oh, I’m the next big thing.’ I think it’s more of me going out there and just playing my game so I can go back to the Philippines and hopefully play in the Olympics.”

Basketball was not his first sport; it was track and field. Harris’ father ran track at Tennessee State University, and that sport was his son’s first focus. Harris’s first goal was to run in the Olympics for the Philippines, but that goal has slightly changed as he is now fond of basketball.

“I remember telling my dad, I want to run for the Filipino team, and then my interest changed to basketball,” Harris said. “But it still has never changed from wanting to represent the Philippines on the highest stage. I feel like the Olympics is my main goal. I know that I really want to go to the NBA, but representing the Philippines on the Olympic stage would be a lot more meaningful than ever playing on an NBA court.”

The good news for Filipinos is that Harris can represent the Philippines as a local, having secured a Philippine passport before the age of 16. Caelum Harris already played for Batang Gilas at the FIBA 2022 U16 Asian Championships and normed all-around numbers in 10.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 28.5 minutes per game.

If Gilas qualifies for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which is a tall task, his debut for the senior national team in the Olympics would be next summer at the 2024 Paris Games. More realistically, he could be a team member for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

“Putting on that uniform is different,” Harris said. “It is a lot of weight because the Philippines loves basketball. It’s what they stand for. So, putting that jersey on, you feel the energy of them wanting to win and them loving you.”

Harris is idolizing Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum and he is patterning his game to Tatum in terms of being an athletic wing who can hit mid-range shots.

“I’m not the most athletic guy, but I feel like getting around the rim, getting to the mid-range, what Jayson Tatum kind of does well is attacking the goal and then being able to pull up for that mid-range jumper,” Harris said. “The thing I really need to work on are my ballhandling skills. I’m not going to combo you up. I’m a catch and rip and attack the goal guy. I feel like I need to work on my shot a little bit more before I can really settle down. I know there are more bigger picture things that I would say I need to work on.”

Harris has come a long way after first being asked to play the game by a Filipino friend who needed an extra player on his rec team. That season, Harris’ squad went winless. Instead of those losses discouraging Harris from continuing with basketball, it made him want to work even harder.

“I ran track and I was always top three in long jump, top three in the 400,” Harris said. “Winning just kind of happened. You started losing and it’s, like, ‘This feeling, I don’t want to feel anymore.’ Then it’s, like, ‘OK, I’ve lost. I don’t want to go out on a loss. I want to go out and get at least one win.’ That just drove you to get better at the game.”

He is expected to carry Nevada starting with the 2024-25 season after his final year of high school. Harris said he fell in love with Reno during his official recruiting visit the weekend of the Nevada-UNLV football game. But what made him commit to the team is the Wolf Pack’s coaching staff.

“They made me feel welcome,” Harris said. “They made me feel like this was going to be the spot where I was going to be at. And then after watching some film on the Wolf Pack, I feel like my game will fit in with what Coach Neal and them want to do.”

Caelum Harris will still have a long journey as a basketball player. Still, the Filipinos must continue supporting him wherever he plays and hope he will someday carry Gilas Pilipinas back to the Olympics.

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Ed Umbao

Founder of | co-Founder of

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