MSU Basketball: Why Gary Harris Will Live Up to the Hype in East Lansing

Matt OveringContributor IIISeptember 17, 2012

Mar 24, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All American guard Gary Harris (40) poses during a photo shoot for the 35th McDonalds High School All American Game to be held at the United Center.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

There's a unique buzz surrounding Gary Harris. He is the highest-ranked player in the 2012 class for Michigan State, and with an ESPN rating of 97, he grades out to be the best prospect to come to East Lansing since Kalin Lucas in 2007. 

Lucas was a pretty good ballplayer for Tom Izzo. He came in and immediately played over 25 minutes per game, averaged 10.3 points per game and managed 3.8 assists per game, just under upperclassmen Travis Walton and Drew Neitzel. 

Harris enters a similar situation in 2012-13. He'll join Keith Appling and Travis Trice in the backcourt, two veteran guards that will share ball-handling duties.

Freshman guard Denzel Valentine will also see minutes at point guard, giving Harris the luxury of playing exclusively at shooting guard, his primary position.

Another benefit of playing with successful upperclassmen like Appling, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne is that there will be less pressure on Harris to "succeed now." 

Like Branden Dawson last season, Izzo will work Harris into the rotation as he sees fit. Dawson played a whopping 35 minutes in the Spartans' opener against North Carolina, but didn't see over 20 minutes in five of the next seven games. He averaged 20.6 minutes per game on the year.

Harris can be just as successful as Dawson. He's smoother on the offensive end of the floor, plays tenacious defense and is elegant in the open court. 

In an interview with ESPN, Coach Izzo said Harris "...makes us a much more athletic team athletic team this year. Because of him, I think we can really run and go more this season than we did last year."

Harris will be the foundation of the fast break for Michigan State. He's got the best combination of athleticism, size and finishing touch in the open court, giving an interesting wrinkle to the Michigan State offense.

For playing time, Harris will have to prove he can play defense. Izzo is known for his complex coaching style, one that freshmen in the past have struggled with.

But Harris is known for his tenacity on that end of the floor. His elite athleticism and quickness will allow him to stay in front of his opponent and generate steals.

He's the most celebrated recruit in East Lansing this year—and the most-hyped. The fusion of his top-notch skill and a stress-free environment to start his college career will lead to a big year for Gary Harris in the Big Ten.