What are three qualities of Greg Harris in SLAM! by Walter Dean Myers?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Greg Harris, known as Slam, is talented - he is six four, and by his own admission he is an amazing basketball player.  Slam says,

"I got the moves, the eye, and the heart...with me it's not like playing a game, it's like the only time I'm being for real.  Bringing the ball down the court makes me feel like a bird that just learned to fly...If somebody starts messing with my game it's like they're getting into my head.  But if I've got the ball it's okay, because I can take care of the situation" (Chapter 1).

Slam is comfortable within himself when he is playing basketball.  He knows how good he is and that knowledge makes him feel as if he has control of what is happening in his world.

Slam can be compassionate and surprisingly forgiving, and he has a strong sense of family.  When his little brother Derek borrows the video camera Slam has checked out from the school and loses it, Slam goes through a lot of trouble to get it back.  When Slam shows Derek the recovered camera, the younger boy assumes that he will not be allowed to use it again, but Slam tells him,

"No, you can use it...but you lose the sucker again I'm going to put out a serious contract on your life".

Knowing that, with his good-natured teasing, Slam is not angry at him, Derek, with delight, goes on and on about how careful he will be with it this time.  Gratified, Slam reflects that "it (is) good to have a little brother (Chapter 16).

Slam is determined.  Although he is immensely talented in basketball, his attitude gets in the way of his chances of getting ahead in life.  His grades are low, and he has problems with his coach, who treats him demeaningly in an attempt to get him to be more of a team player.  Slam does what it takes to get his grades up, and struggles to get higher than a 700 on the SAT so that he will be eligible for a basketball scholarship.  He manages to score a 740, which

"weren't kicking no butt, but if somebody wanted to offer (him) a scholarship, (he) could take it" (Chapter 16).

Slam's situation with his coach is arguably a far more difficult obstacle for him to overcome.  The coach is confrontational, and Slam's usual reaction is to fight back against the disrespect with which he is being treated.  With the guidance of his friend Goldy, Slam learns the hard lesson of accepting that life is not often fair, and that he must play for himself and show what he has, doing what he has to in order to get ahead.  Goldy tells Slam to "get (his) attitude together and come on out for the game", even if the situation he is in is "not right".  Learning to swallow his pride and do what is right for himself is the hardest thing Slam ever has to do, and the fact that he manages to do it shows the depth of his character and the level of determination he has to succeed in life (Chapter 16).

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