“There was a time in my life when basketball was everything to me!” Regi Harris said.
Regi was named all-state his senior year of high school. He led the conference in scoring that year. There was no doubt in Regi’s mind he would play college basketball. But he had loftier goals.“All my life I wanted to be an NBA basketball player,” Regi said. “And no one from my high school had ever made it to the NBA and from the little rural area that I grew up in no one had ever made it to any pro sport. So I wanted to be the first.”
Regi’s parents abandoned him at birth, so his grandparents became the only parents he knew. They tried instilling in him Christian values.
“It was all about hard work,” Regi said. “They were about morals, principles and that’s something that I didn’t want any part of. It kept me from doing things that I wanted to do. I didn’t want to come home and have to do chores. I wanted to play basketball when I got home.”
Regi’s talent landed him a full scholarship at division one Sam Houston State. In his sophomore season he was named all-American. It seemed the NBA would be calling soon. But that call would never come.
Regi’s dreams came to an end, his junior year, on a playground in his hometown. He was playing a pick up game when he went up for a dunk, and his knee shattered. Doctors told him his basketball career was over.
“I became very depressed,” Regi said. “Disappointed, very disappointed – hurt, frustrated, crushed – because so many people had so much confidence in me. I started drowning my sorrows in drugs and I started doing more drugs and heavier drugs and because of that I became addicted.”
Regi’s drug of choice was crack.
“I started credit card fraud and forging checks and any little thing that I could do to get my drugs,” Regi said. “Of course if you do crime you do time.”
Regi was sentenced to 9 years in prison for theft and forgery. He tried to change.
“Ok, this is it,” Regi said. “And of course I’d pick up my Bible and do the jailhouse religion thing and I really meant it.”
Regi was released after only nine months on good behavior, but within a year he began using again.
“There’s a lot of pressure that’s out in society that’s not in jail,” Regi said. “You don’t have nothing but time in there to get into your word and do meditation and devotion – the stuff that you don’t discipline yourself to do when you get out because you got all these other distractions.”
“I want to understand drug addiction because it is a very miserable place from what I understand,” Regi said. “But it’s a place that so many people return to. Why is that?”
“You know I always say drugs escalate,” Regi said. “They don’t get better, they get worse and they get to a point to where they take over you and your body craves it. And now you just got to have them at all cost.”
Regi violated his probation and was sent back to prison. While there he got a phone call about his grandfather – the man he called “Dad.”
“I knew my grandfather was sick but I didn’t know to what extent,” Regi said. “And my aunt was on the phone and she just said, ‘Your dad passed away.’ It didn’t really sink in at first. A couple days later it really hit home that I would never see him again. I would never be able to tell him I’m sorry, shake his hand and say, ‘I appreciate your prayers and I appreciate all the concern you had for me.’”
Eleven months later Regi’s grandmother passed away. The only parents he’d ever known were gone while he was locked in prison.
“She went, and I thought the first one was tough but now they’re both gone,” Regi said.
Regi felt alone and desperate. Again he was released from prison, but he was still a prisoner.
“I felt more locked up when I was out doing drugs than I did when I was in prison,” Regi said.
So what happened?
“I surrendered,” Regi said. “All I know is, ‘God, I’m tired of living like this. God, I’m tired of disappointing people, God I’m tired of running around in the streets like a mad man doing stupid crimes and degrading myself and my family and most of all degrading God.”
“I told people who knew me, ‘I can do it, I can quit, see? I haven’t used for six months. I can do it. I can do it.’ And the more I said I, the less I said God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Regi went to rehab, but he says God set him free from the desire of doing drugs. And he gave him a new desire – helping young people make good choices. Regi’s the coach of a youth basketball team.
“He gave me the desires of my heart,” Regi said. “It almost renders you speechless because when I’m on the court with the kids or we’re going to a game, I can just look at God and say thank you so much.”
Regi believes the faithfulness of his grandparents played a part in his life change.
“I used to see her pray all the time,” Regi said. “She would pray for hours. And the reason she was on her knees for so long is she was probably praying a lot of those prayers for me.”
“I don’t deserve to have what I have today,” Regi said. “If I got what I deserved I’d probably still be in prison or dead. But in spite of what I’ve done and despite of the person I was. His character loves me anyway. He loved me so much that he was willing to make a sacrifice for me while I was yet in sin he paid the ultimate price. And it’s awesome, it’s awesome.
And I make it personal. He did that for me.”