The sophomore announced his decision on the school's official website on Monday and provided this statement:
The last two years have been the best of my life, but it's time to follow my dream and declare for the NBA Draft.
My two seasons at Michigan State have been an amazing experience. I have a lifetime of memories, including some incredible games in some incredible places, NCAA Tournaments, and cutting down the nets after a Big Ten Tournament Championship. But most important are the friendships I've developed with my teammates. These are bonds that will last forever, especially the guys in my class. I can't imagine a better group of guys to be around. [...]
There's not a doubt in my mind that I'm going to miss Michigan State. There won't be a bigger Spartan fan than me next season. I'll be playing basketball somewhere else next season, but I'll always be a Spartan. This is my home, and I'm already looking forward to coming back to campus whenever I can, just like all the great Spartans and former players before me.
The star player has showcased an elite scoring ability throughout his time at Michigan State, averaging 12.9 points per game in his first year before jumping up to 16.7 per game this past season. Harris also showed the ability to be an elite defender with an average of 1.8 steals and four rebounds per game in 2013-14.
His skill on both ends of the court helped him be named first-team All-Big Ten as well as the conference's All-Defensive Team.
Harris has decent size for a shooting guard at 6'4", but he has big-time athleticism that allows him to score at or above the rim. He has good quickness to get into the lane if needed as well as the shooting ability to drain threes when open.
This wide skill set is a big reason he is the No. 10 prospect in the upcoming NBA draft, according to ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required). Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports agreed upon hearing news:
Top 10 pick RT @GoodmanESPN: Michigan State sophomore Gary Harris is going to the NBA,sources told ESPN.Official announcement expected soon.— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) April 14, 2014
The talented guard has been so good that even his head coach expected him to leave early. Tom Izzo explained to reporters on April 1, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com:
I'd be leaning to advising him that it's time to make the jump.
What I gather is that his status is still very, very high. When it's that high, my advice over the years has been when you're ready mentally, you should go.
Still, there is reason to be cautious about the player's ability to make the jump to the next level, as one of the big concerns about his game is inconsistency and the tendency to be passive during big games.
Tom Dienhart of Big Ten Network discussed this issue during the team's narrow win over Virginia in the Sweet 16:
Gary Harris has hit 2-of-5 shots and has five points I always expect a lot from him. A franchise-type player rises up in games like this.— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) March 29, 2014
Then again, he was able to follow that up with a 22-point performance against Connecticut in the Elite Eight, creating this type of reaction:
Gary Harris is a baller.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 30, 2014
If he can live up to his potential on a nightly basis, Harris has the potential to be a star in the NBA. Of course, the good news for one player means bad news for the rest of the team, which will be losing an integral piece next season.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead points out the potential problems for the Spartans:
Going to be a HUGE drop-off for Michigan State next year. Only 1 top 100 recruit. Lose Appling, Payne, Gary Harris (he's gone).— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) March 30, 2014
The good news is that Izzo always seems to find a way to get the most out of his players. Based on his history, Michigan State should be just fine going forward and will be contending for a Final Four before too long.
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