WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I wanna do whatever I can to help my team win.”
That’s how Michigan State guard Gary Harris described his mindset heading into the summer, and it’s a mindset that everyone paying attention should believe.
Harris played the entirety of last season with a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the first two games of the year. He also spent the first three months of his offseason focused more on rehabbing that shoulder than getting better as a basketball player, a fact that actually was good news for Michigan State fans; it meant that Harris didn’t have to undergo surgery.
So yeah, Harris is going to do what he has to do to help the Spartans win.
“I’m just the type of person that’s going to play through regardless,” said Harris, who had offers from Notre Dame, Kentucky, Iowa, Indiana and Purdue to play wide receiver coming out of high school. “I sat out the first two games, but after that I couldn’t sit out anymore. I was going to play even if the shoulder fell off. So it feels good to finally get back to 100% healthy and get back to how I used to be.”
How he used to be is a scary thought for Michigan State fans. As Tom Izzo said back in April, we “haven’t seen the Gary Harris I recruited yet.”
I got a chance to see Harris work out and scrimmage at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Washington DC over the weekend, and one of the things that stood out to me was that Harris appeared to be much more explosive that I remembered him being during the season. During the drills and while they played 5-on-5, Harris looked to have an improved first-step and threw down a couple of impressive dunks in the process.
Where he could end up making the biggest leap, however, is with his physicality. Harris is a strong kid. It helps him defensively and in the paint, but it’s an even bigger asset when he’s driving to the rim. For a right-handed kid with a bad left-shoulder, it’s hard to use that strength to get by defenders off of the bounce; their left-shoulder is what makes first contact with a defender is the key to creating a driving lane. When it hurts, it makes driving to the rim painful.
With a healthy shoulder, there were a couple of times where Harris shed defenders driving to the rim like he was Adrian Peterson. That’s a scary thought for opponents, but a good sign for Michigan State.
A healthy and motivated Harris is an All-American caliber talent, and health isn’t the only thing that Harris built up this spring.
“I’m putting a big emphasis on winning this offseason,” he said, “especially after seeing one of our big rivals go to the championship game. We have a good chance and I want to do anything I can to get my team to Dallas.”
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.