Former WNBA Champion's Big Plan for Young North Texas Athletes

During Black History Month, NBC 5 is taking a closer look at the men and women who broke barriers and shaped the future for North Texas

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Fran Harris is a WNBA champion, a sportscaster, author, motivational speaker and born and raised in Dallas.

Harris’ rise in basketball started at a late age. She was already 15 when she picked up the sport for the first time.

Fran Harris, second from left, celebrating with teammates at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas.

“My mother wouldn’t let me play basketball,” Harris said. “She wanted me to be a scholar and she didn’t want to be that mom having to take me everywhere for the sport. She literally would not allow me to play. She would tell me I was a student and not an athlete. Then my oldest brother went to her and said ‘you know if she gets a basketball scholarship, then you won’t have to pay for [college].’ My mom then told me it was time to play basketball.”

Harris graduated from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas and received a full scholarship to The University of Texas at Austin. Her success at UT has gone down in history books. She led that team to their first and only NCAA Championship title in 1986 with a perfect season.

In her mind, basketball was over after college.

“I honestly retired at 23. So there were about seven or eight years that passed between that and the WNBA. For a high-level athlete, there wasn’t that much difference coming back. The biggest difference was my oxygen capacity. I really hadn’t worked out [hard] in seven years. When the WNBA came about, I really kind of got a heads up that it was coming and then I started training. I got the chance to play in Switzerland right before. I started intentionally and prayerfully getting back. I knew I needed some stats to prove I could do it. I was in Switzerland in the Fall of 1996 and then went to the WNBA in the Spring of 1997 playing with the Houston Comets."

She won the WNBA Championship with the Comets in the league’s inaugural season.

Fran Harris #20 of the Houston Comets puts up a shot against the Los Angeles Sparks during a WNBA game on June 30, 1997 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bill Baptist/WNBAE via Getty Images)

Then, it was time to really get her career moving, off the court.

“When I retired and was calling games for ESPN, my brother moved to Forney. He said there was a new facility that was coming up in Forney. I talked to that person about how to grow the business. That’s how I learned about the demographics in Forney. I knew then, they needed a sports facility that was multipurpose.”

So here she is now. Building a massive, multi-purpose sports facility in Forney.

“The city said OK. They gave us the land at a really good price because they knew what I was going to do with it. They knew it would be a good thing. That was at the beginning of 2018. And then the Hunt Family figured out they were going to do this 500-acre huge development in Forney. And they asked, who are the Harris’? And do you think they would be willing to do it on our development,” Harris said.

Fran Harris #20 of the Houston Comets shoots against Jennifer Gillom #22 of the Phoenix Mercury on July 22, 1997 at the America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Since the partnership started with one of North Texas’ most prominent families and the green light from the city, the ball has been rolling fast on Harris’ passion project to help young athletes develop their skills.

“The great thing about Forney is that it doesn’t have a ‘Y’ or recreation center. This is like a workout gym and a fieldhouse all in one. Its health and wellness, but also basketball teams coming in from all around the country on the weekends to play,” Harris said.

It will offer so much more than just sports.

“We will have a broadcast studio because I want to foster the next generation of the people who want to be in television. And not just sports but in television. There will also be an esports area. We are also doubling as a convention center. We want to think of this as not just a sports complex, but also a facility.”

Harris said the projected soft opening is Spring of 2021 if all goes well.

As for the mark she hopes she has left on North Texas? She wants people to know, she did what she has always set out to do. Gave it everything she had.

“I want people to know that I was brave and that I was willing to use every ounce of my God-given talents and abilities to really make a difference in this world. It’s not just about being the best, the brightest or the smartest. It’s about being brave enough to do what you want. And they will say she left it all out on the floor.”

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