Of all the countless hours Armon Harried spent in the Lake Clifton gym watching his father’s Lakers play basketball, halftime was his favorite.
Sporting khakis and a polo shirt with a basketball always in his hands, he would race out of the stands and take to the court, getting up as many shots as he could before the teams returned for the second half.
Coming out of middle school with excellent grades and skills on the basketball court, Armon had options when it came to where he wanted to play his high school ball.
No tough decision had to be made, though. Lake Clifton was the choice and playing for his father, Herman “Tree” Harried, was his only desire.
Four years later, the two are successfully navigating a rewarding path, finding the ideal balance between their father-son relationship and the one as coach and player.
After leading the junior varsity to the Baltimore City championship as a sophomore and then contributing in the Lakers’ Class 2A state championship season as a junior, Armon has thrived in a lead role this season. The versatile 6-foot-4 senior is averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game, seeing time at guard and forward while captaining a team that closed out the regular season with an 18-4 mark.
The No. 7 Lakers, now competing in Class 1A, will open the North region playoffs on Friday when the team hosts Baltimore City foe ACCE.
Sitting in the gym during a rare quiet time after school and before practice a couple of weeks ago, Armon took a look around and reflected.
“This is just home — I grew up here,” he said. “This is the first place I shot a basketball and where I began to love the game. Over the years, even before I started playing here, I had an appreciation of the hard work that comes with playing at Lake Clifton, and then winning a state championship was awesome.”
After Coach Harried picked him up from school, they went to Lake Clifton where he would sit in his father’s office to do his homework.
When he finished and his work was checked, he was allowed to play basketball.
Coach Harried, a stern disciplinarian who has won 436 games, four state titles and four Baltimore City titles in his 23 seasons at Lake Clifton, turned on the “proud dad” switch for a few minutes that same day in the gym recently.
He beams when he shows a visitor the drawings Armon made during grade school, still taped on his office wall. The training wheels from Armon’s first bike are still around with a story about how he learned to ride it on the gym floor. And when the visitor is just about out the door, Coach Harried catches up to him to hand him a sheet of paper — a note from Armon’s guidance counselor detailing his fine work in the classroom. Coach Harried and Armon’s mother, Delora Walker, have always preached academics first. With a 4.4 grade point average, Armon, who is drawing interest from area colleges Coppin State, Loyola, Morgan State, and Towson, along with Florida A&M and Coastal Carolina, will be the class valedictorian.
“Most people that have been coming around over the last 17 years remember him always running around here,” Coach Harried said. “His growth and development have been great as well as his maturity and his leadership. He’s a very mature young man. I think he has an old spirit in the way he conducts himself and he’s grown both academically and athletically.”
Armon looks like a slightly smaller version of his father, who was a 6-foot-7 forward at Dunbar before moving on to Syracuse and then playing professionally overseas. They are both long and lanky with broad shoulders. On game day, the same fierce competitiveness shows up on their faces.
“Oh my God, they look identical. He is his father’s son,” said Walker. “I was scared. I didn’t want him to coach Armon because I thought it would be a strain on their relationship as far as father and son. But I was wrong. They are tight. I think it’s just their ability to communicate and listen to each other. And the respect Armon has for his father is second to none.”
Having been around the program his entire life, Armon was already prepared when it was his turn to play.
“I really didn’t have to adjust because I had already seen how he coaches,” he said. “I knew what he wanted, what he expected, what to do and what not to do. So by the time I came, I was already accustomed to the system and it was an easy fit for me.”
A tough loss against Edmondson in the Baltimore City JV championship game during Armon’s freshman season left a mark on him that lasted a year.
“We had a chance to move somebody up to varsity during his sophomore year and [Armon] said ‘No, I owe [Edmondson].’ It was in his heart,” Lake Clifton JV coach Steven Hill said. “And when he has something on his mind and he has something set to do, it’s tough to stop.”
So fittingly, the teams met again in the JV title game and with Edmondson having a small lead in the fourth quarter, Hill called timeout and made a request to Armon: “Man, put me on your back.”
Armon took over the game with key baskets and rebounds to send the Lakers to victory.
Over the years, Coach Harried had his own rules to keep things straight. When Armon was younger and he went to watch his games, he went as his father.
“So even though I’m a coach and it may have been hard sitting there and watching him make a bad play, I wanted to sit there as a father. Then I would share coaching advice to him later when the time was there,” he said.
When he started coaching him at Lake Clifton, he was always back to Dad starting with the drives home from practices and games.
“My approach to this whole thing when he came to play here was he’s one of the guys,” Coach Harried said. “He’s never been favored or got any preferential treatment. He’s just a basketball player, it’s what he’s known all his life and he’s been easy to coach. I reprimand him like anybody else — no more, no less — and he responds and goes back to play. What the team gets, he gets — no more, no less — and he’s good with that.”
Douglass coach Tyree Bizzelle has a similar situation approaching with his second son now in seventh grade looking to soon have the same opportunity and decision Armon had when entering high school. Bizzelle has kept a close eye on how the Harrieds have made their relationship work.
“Just to watch [Armon] grow under his father every year has been impressive. I’ve been watching him play since the seventh grade and he got better and the way he blossomed this year was just amazing,” he said. “Just watching that relationship, I would love to have the same thing with my son. We’re just trying to make sure as a family that it’s the right decision.”
When it comes to basketball, there’s an easy answer to the Harrieds’ fondest memory. It took place last March at Xfinity Center when the Lakers claimed the Class 2A state crown with a 63-55 win over North Caroline.
“After we won, I just remember being so excited — bouncing up and down, throwing the ball and running,” Armon said. “He sat there on the bench for a couple minutes and after he got up and I got my medal, we talked. He was like: ‘You went from watching and now you’ve won one. You used to be right over there on the bleachers and now you’re on the court.’ It was just surreal, we did it together. My first year on varsity and we went down there and won. So you couldn’t ask for nothing better.”
Outside of basketball, they enjoy comedy movies, dinner out on Fridays, traveling and watching college hoops and football.
“He is my son and I am his dad,” said Coach Harried. “Everybody was wondering what he would call me when he got here to play — he’s going to call me Dad. I may coach him but my title is Dad. So we’ve managed this pretty well and I think we’ve showed people how it can be done well.”