When Jack Harryman was about 9 years old, he had a little talk with one of the best boys' water polo players that Corona del Mar High has seen.
The conversation wasn't by accident. Harryman lived across the street from Jacob Murphy, the 2005 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player who went on to star at center for UCLA. Growing up, Harryman was pretty good friends with Murphy's youngest sister, Diana, who graduated from CdM this year.
Jacob Murphy told Harryman that he should try water polo. Nobody in his family had played the sport, but Harryman tried it and loved it, starting with longtime CdM youth coach Ted Bandaruk.
That was about half a lifetime ago for Harryman, who is now a senior at CdM. He has come a long way in the sport with some of his good friends. Thirteen of CdM's 14 varsity players this year are seniors.
"I loved it right when I started playing," Harryman said. "I've been playing with these guys forever. It's just such a good team sport."
Harryman, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, certainly came up big for the Sea Kings last weekend at the Finis Memorial Cup. Harryman scored the game-winning goal, on a cross pass from Jake Wyatt, in the final minute of CdM's 11-10 comeback victory over Long Beach Wilson.
The rally at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose was impressive, considering the Sea Kings trailed their rivals, 8-3, at halftime. Harryman stepped up for three goals in the match — all in the second half — to share the team lead with Wyatt.
"What I was thinking was, 'Let's get this going,'" Harryman said. "I was worried, I'm not going to lie. They're a good team ... [but] we got fired up. [Coach] Barry [O'Dea] told us that it was our last tournament together, and we wanted to go out with a win. One of our goals before the season started was to get a win in a tournament, and this was our last one. We all came together."
The Sea Kings played probably their best water polo of the season. It helped lift them from the No. 6 spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll to a three-way tie for third, with Newport Harbor and Wilson.
CdM also topped Newport Harbor, 11-6, in a Memorial Cup semifinal. O'Dea has said he feels like CdM deserves the No. 3 seed in Division 1, and Harryman said he agrees. The playoffs start next week, and the brackets will be released Sunday.
The No. 3 spot in Division 1 is especially significant this year, as it ensures that a team wouldn't have to play two-time defending champion Mater Dei in a potential semifinal match. The Monarchs have won a Southern Section-record 74 consecutive matches.
"I think we should [get the No. 3 seed]," Harryman said. "I mean, we came out and beat Newport, beat Long Beach. I think we deserve it, because we're kind of peaking right now ... We came out in that tournament and played our best water polo that we've played all year, I think. Newport kind of fell apart, and then Long Beach fell apart in the second half. I think we're hitting our peak, right when we should be, and I think we deserve it.
"I feel like we have a lot of momentum going into CIF. Talking to the guys, we're all excited to get going for CIF. It's our last four games with a huge senior class on varsity."
Four games in CIF means a trip to the finals. Harryman, a valuable player on the one-two side, can help the Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings (21-6) get there.
Harryman, who is in his second year on varsity but first year starting, leads the team with 34 steals. The red-head said that coming into this year he has really striven to improve his defense, and it appears to be paying off.
Harryman is just tied for fifth on CdM with 25 goals, but that's a good number on a team with crazy depth like the Sea Kings have. Eight different players for Corona del Mar have 20 goals or more, led by Reid Chase (76), Danny Marshall (46) and Wyatt (37).
"I think that's one of our strongest points, having so many guys who can go in and not really having our team fall off," Harryman said. "It's something that most teams don't have, and it's really helped us through the entire year. In NorCal, we had a few games where we got in foul trouble with a few guys. It helps that we have the depth to put in other people and still keep playing at a high level."
The Sea Kings remain close-knit. As Harryman got out of the pool Thursday for his Athlete of the Week photo shoot, his teammates chanted his name, "Jack! Jack! Jack!"
Wyatt, the lefty who hooked Harryman up with the assist on his game-winning goal, said Harryman is a valuable resource for the Sea Kings.
"He brings a lot," Wyatt said. "Stats-wise, he has the most steals. He's really good at getting out there and taking away the ball on the defensive side. He's also good at getting up on the counter. He's one of our faster guys, so he's good at getting quick transition goals. And then he's one of our good shooters as well.
"In my opinion, he's almost like a utility player. He has so many aspects he brings to the game — his speed, his shooting and then his defensive side of the ball too."
Harryman will continue to improve. He said he definitely wants to play water polo in college.
Jacob Murphy would be proud.
Born: Jan. 20, 1995
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 175 pounds
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Barry O'Dea
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: "Anchorman"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping CdM win the Panasonic Pan Pacific tournament last July in New Zealand.
Week in review: Harryman scored the game-winning goal in the final minute as CdM rallied to top Long Beach Wilson, 11-10, in the Finis Memorial Cup tournament championship match in San Jose on Oct. 27. Harryman had three goals in the game, and five in the tournament.