PORTLAND – The first player ever drafted by the Maine Red Claws has returned to the basketball team after visits to the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and the maternity ward.

Paul Harris, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound forward out of Syracuse, left the Claws in late January for an opportunity in the Philippine Basketball Association and wound up winning a title with Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, a franchise owned by a telecommunications company.

Harris then signed on with a team in the Dominican Republic and won another title before returning home to New York City, where he stayed during training camp due to complications regarding the birth of his third son, Mason Sean Harris, who arrived more than three weeks early on the first of December.

“Now it’s time to get back to focus and get back to work,” said Harris, who reported that mother and child are both doing well. “I haven’t played in a while, so I’m not in tip-top shape. It takes time. I don’t expect to come out and play 30 minutes on Saturday or score 25 points, but I know I’ll be able to compete and give it my all.”

After being selected by the Red Claws in 2009, Harris missed his first D-League season with an ankle injury, then encountered back problems last winter that limited him to an average of 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in 22 games.

Red Claws coach Dave Leitao welcomed the return of Harris, who has practiced twice with the team after arriving Sunday in Portland, particularly at a time when the roster is somewhat in flux with five players currently attending NBA camps.

“He’s a veteran,” Leitao said. “He knows the league. He has a feel for the game and how he can integrate himself here. That was immediately felt when he got here.”

Harris is no wallflower.

“He brings an energy with his game and with his voice to the gym,” Leitao said. “There’s an uplift of competition, an uplift of responsibility and accountability just by his presence. So I think those two things mean a lot, especially at this time, but even over the course of the season, what his presence will give to our team.”

The Red Claws (2-4) return to action Saturday night at the Portland Expo against conference rival Erie (2-5).

While in the Philippines, Harris said a National Geographic film crew followed him around for 24 hours to document his experience as a professional athlete in a foreign country. Included are shots from a visit to a zoo where Harris drapes a large snake around his shoulders, feeds a tiger from a bottle and handles an alligator.

A sneak peek can be seen on YouTube by searching for “Paul Harris sneak peak documentary.”

“I feel blessed for them to want to do something,” said Harris, who was told the documentary should air internationally sometime in late February.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH