Gary Harris

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Michigan State guard Gary Harris entering 2014 NBA Draft

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Michigan State lost a key piece on Monday afternoon when sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris opted to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-4 Harris improved his numbers during his sophomore season in East Lansing, but saw his shooting percentages dip as he became more of a primary offensive option for the Spartans. Harris averaged 16.7 points, four rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game for Michigan State last season but only shot 41 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range after shooting 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively, last season.

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

“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,” Harris said in the release. “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.”

Although Harris is a sophomore, he is young for his grade and doesn’t turn 20 years old until September 14th of this year, which is part of the reason he’s listed at No. 14 in Draft Express’ latest mock draft.

“Not only do I fully support and celebrate Gary’s decision, but after my information gathering process, I recommend it,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said in the release. “I expect Gary to be a high pick in the draft, but more importantly, I know that he is well prepared for a long career.”

Michigan State now loses Harris along with senior starters Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. Sophomore guard Denzel Valentine will likely be asked to carry a lot of Harris’ primary minutes at the two, while freshman guard Alvin Ellis also played some spot minutes at off-guard last season for Michigan State.

Report: Gary Harris expected to enter the draft

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Gary Harris is expected to enter the NBA Draft, according to a report from Gary Parrish of

“He’s going to go,” one source told Parrish. “And he probably should.”

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo held his final press conference of the season Tuesday afternoon, telling reporters that he will support Gary Harris going to the NBA if he is projected as a lottery pick.

“He could surprise me like [Adreian Payne] did,” Izzo said, “but I think he can be a fairly solid pick.”

He’s currently projected as the No. 15 pick in the draft by Draft Express, which, ironically enough, would slot him right outside of the lottery.

Izzo said that Harris is “torn”, as he loves college and the bond that he has formed with his teammates. If Harris does return, it would be a huge boost for a Spartan team that could be facing a rebuilding year next season with Keith Appling and Adreian Payne graduating.

Harris averaged 16.7 points and 4.0 boards as a sophomore.

Consistency will be key for No. 4 Michigan State moving forward

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After shooting nearly 60% from the field in the first half and taking a 45-33 lead into the half, East Region No. 4 Michigan State fell into a false sense of security. Instead of continuing to work hard on both ends of the floor the Spartans allowed themselves to be outworked by No. 12 Harvard, resulting in a 29-11 Crimson run.

Luckily for Michigan State they mustered up a quality response, regaining control with an 11-1 run and going on to win 80-73.

One game after Adreian Payne scored a career-high 41 points fellow forward Branden Dawson established a career high Saturday night, scoring 26 points to go along with nine rebounds. Michigan State was effective early because they ran on misses and shared the basketball, and they got in trouble by getting away from the basics that made them so successful.

During Harvard’s 29-11 run guard Brandyn Curry and forward Steve Moundou-Missi were the standouts, and when Laurent Rivard’s three-pointer with 7:11 remaining gave Tommy Amaker’s team a 62-60 lead it was clear that the Spartans were at an important point in their season. A trendy pick to reach the Final Four, Michigan State was in danger of heading home two games into the NCAA tournament.

However a Travis Trice three-pointer swung momentum back in favor of Michigan State, and he’s been a key contributor in both tournament wins. After scoring 19 points against Delaware on Thursday, Trice wasn’t as productive against Harvard but his lone three-pointer was of high importance. Both Trice and Keith Appling struggled against a backcourt led by Curry and Siyani Chambers, but the contributions of Dawson and Gary Harris (18 points) ensured that Michigan State would advance to the Sweet 16.

The lesson to be learned for Michigan State is one of consistency, which will be critical moving forward for Tom Izzo’s squad. When clicking this is one of the best teams remaining in the tournament, but they’re by no means invisible especially when not doing the things that make them successful.

Fortunately for the Spartans they’ll be able to apply those lessons with a game left to be played, against either No. 1 Virginia or No. 8 Memphis Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Big Ten Tournament: Defense carries No. 22 Michigan State to title


One day after shooting better than 50% from both the field and from beyond the arc in a win over No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 22 Michigan State got the job done defensively in their 69-55 win over No. 8 Michigan to grab the Big Ten tournament title. Michigan, which led the Big Ten in both field goal and three-point percentage, shot 31% from the field  and 6-for-23 from beyond the arc.

Michigan State did a very good job of taking away the ball screen and dribble handoff situations in which Michigan can be so lethal when allowed to get going. Nik Stauskas scored 17 points but he was made to work awfully hard for those points, doing so on 4-for-15 shooting. And with Derrick Walton Jr. being the only other Michigan player to score in double figures, this proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome against a balanced Michigan State offense.

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Adreian Payne (nine rebounds) scored 18 points and Branden Dawson and Gary Harris adding 15 apiece for Michigan State, which made up for a poor afternoon from beyond the arc (2-for-17) by making 67.6% of its two-point attempts. Michigan State is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, making 39.8% of its attempts, so Sunday’s outing isn’t a typical one for this group. And if the Spartans can continue to work the ball inside as they did against Michigan, they’ll be fine offensively.

Injuries have been an issue all season long for Michigan State, but with Dawson and Payne at full strength (and Keith Appling closer to it) this weekend  the Spartans were able to put together three quality performances. There will still be skeptics who make the claim that the “when the Spartans are full strength” cries are nothing more than excuses; that all teams have to navigate health issues throughout the course of a season.

But to make that statement is to ignore the obvious in regards to Michigan State, that this is a different group than the one we saw for much of Big Ten play. And with that being the case, Tom Izzo has himself a complete team capable of playing deep into the NCAA tournament.

No. 13 Michigan State catches fire from deep in win at Purdue

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On Sunday afternoon No. 13 Michigan State put forth its worst performance of the season, falling by nine points to a Nebraska team that’s making a hard charge towards an NCAA tournament berth. In that game the Spartans shot 34% from the field and 24 of their 50 attempts were three-pointers, with only five of those shots being made.

Michigan State didn’t shoot well and they didn’t do a good enough job of finding quality looks, two things that had to change against Purdue on Thursday night. It’s safe to say that Tom Izzo’s team made those improvements.

The Spartans set a new school record with 17 made three-pointers, shooting 13-for-19 in the first half, and they shot 57% from the field in their 94-79 win over the Boilermakers. Gary Harris snapped out of his four-game slump, hitting six three-pointers and scoring a game-high 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting to lead four Spartans in double figures.

The big question for Michigan State moving forward is the health of point guard Keith Appling, who didn’t start but played 26 minutes without any tape on his right wrist. Appling scored just one point but he finished the game with nine assists and four turnovers.

On this night Michigan State didn’t need Appling to do much shooting, with Harris, Adreian Payne (23 points) and Travis Trice (14)  doing most of the work from beyond the arc and Denzel Valentine adding 16 points. But that wrist and how Appling deals with the injury will factor into how deep into March Michigan State goes.

Michigan State is unlikely to shoot as well from deep as they did against Purdue as the games get tougher. But if they can build on the ball movement and spacing exhibited in West Lafayette, the Spartans will be a difficult team to defend based upon their scoring options. And with Branden Dawson expected to return to the lineup soon, Michigan State may be approaching full strength (knock on wood).

No. 9 Michigan State nearly overcame Gary Harris’ rough afternoon


At this point in the season Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris is one of the players who has to be considered not only for Big Ten Player of the Year honors but a spot on All-America teams as well. Averaging 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game (before Sunday), Harris is one of the key cogs in the attack for a Spartan squad that has battled the injury bug all season long.

To expect Michigan State to win in spite of a 3-for-20 afternoon from Harris with all members of their rotation available would be a stretch. To do so with Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (hand) out of the lineup and Adreian Payne (foot) playing just his second game in the last month? Near impossible. Yet there were the Spartans, hanging around at Wisconsin with Payne and Travis Trice making key plays down the stretch. Ultimately Michigan State would fall, as Traevon Jackson hit a jumper from the left wing with 2.1 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin the 60-58 victory.

The issue for Harris, first and foremost, was the defense applied by Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. One of the Big Ten’s best defenders Gasser made life difficult for Harris for much of the afternoon, and when the sophomore was able to get shots up few of those looks went unchallenged. That resulted in some forced attempts, hardly the recipe for a player looking to get untracked offensively, and when Harris did shake free of Gasser he found another Badger (or more) waiting.

Harris did manage to get two dunks early in the second half, but those plays didn’t provide the spark needed to get him going offensively. Add to this the fact that Harris didn’t attempt a single free throw, and the end result is a six-point afternoon for one of the nation’s best two-guards. Harris did account for seven rebounds and three steals, as he didn’t allow his shot to affect the level of effort given in other areas of the game.

However as noted above the Spartans remained in contact with Wisconsin throughout thanks to the play of Payne, who scored 24 points and tied the game at 58 with a three-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining. Payne was assertive offensively, and defensively he spent time on both Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. After shaking off some rust in a comfortable win over Penn State on Thursday night, Payne had the look of the player he was before injuring his foot.

And with an eye towards March and the need for players other than your stars to step forward on occasion, Travis Trice’s 13 points should not be ignored. Trice hit a key three with 1:45 remaining to pull Michigan State to within three, and his pass to Payne resulted in the game-tying basket. And after scoring a total of five points on 1-for-11 shooting in Michigan State’s last two games, maybe this outing will be the confidence boost Trice needs moving forward.

And just as important as the scoring is the fact that Trice went a second consecutive game without committing a turnover. When healthy (knock on wood, Spartan fans) Michigan State won’t need Trice to be a double-digit scorer but they do need him to be productive when on the floor. That happened against Wisconsin, and Michigan State nearly left Madison with the win as a result.

Gary Harris had the worst shooting day of his young career on Sunday, with Michigan State also missing two starters, and Tom Izzo’s squad nearly overcame it. The Spartans will be fine, because it’s a safe bet that Harris doesn’t shoot that poorly again.