American Basketball Player Found Dead in Brazil

The body of an American basketball player who was reported missing two weeks ago, was found in the middle of a dense thicket in the central state of Goias, police said on Monday.

Police spokesman Norton Luiz said by telephone that the body was that of Tony Harris, a former Washington State University basketball star who was under contract to Universo, a professional Brazilian basketball team based in Brasilia, the country's capital.

"Thanks to an anonymous phone call, police found his body on Sunday slumped against a tree in an Army training ground and with the shoelace of one of his sneakers wrapped around his neck," Luiz said. "We believe he may have committed suicide because it appears the body fell from one of the tree's branches, although we are not ruling out homicide."

He said that "judging from the body's state of decomposition," Harris died some five days before he was found inside the Army training ground near the small town of Formosa.

He said Harris' father-in-law and a family friend had arrived in Goiania, capital of Goias state, to make a positive identification of the body, which should be flown back to the United States in a few days for burial.

The American embassy confirmed the arrival of the father-in-law and a friend but declined to comment further until the body was positively identified.

Harris was reported missing Nov. 4 just three days after his debut as a shooting guard for the Brazilian team, said Jorge Bastos, one of Universo's directors.

"According to some of the other players, Harris appeared to be nervous and overly anxious about something," Bastos said by telephone. "But he never said what was bothering him."

Harris, who would have turned 37 on Sunday, left Oct. 31 to play basketball for Universo. His wife last heard from him on Nov. 4.

Harris played for the 1994 WSU team that made it to the east regionals of the NCAA tournament, and before that on state championship teams at Garfield High School in Seattle.

After college, Harris played in Asia and South America, including a previous stint in Brazil.

He returned to Seattle and most recently worked as a counselor at Echo Glen, a juvenile rehabilitation facility. But that job ended when he was not hired permanently in February, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.