File this one in the you-can’t-really-blame-him category: Gary Harris made official today what nearly everyone has expected since the Spartans’ season ended in a loss to Connecticut in the Elite Eight — he’s ready to play in the NBA.
In a press release from MSU titled, “Harris Declares For NBA Draft,” and subtitled, “Sophomore guard closes career after scoring 1,000 career points in two seasons,” Harris and Izzo laid out the thoughts behind the decision.
Quote from Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris
“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.
“I’d like to thank everyone at MSU for their incredible support. Coach Izzo, Coach Stephens, Coach Fife and Coach Garland have all taught me so much about basketball, but also helped me develop as a man. But it’s not just the coaches. Everyone around the program, and throughout the university, has made this an amazing two years. It’s the reason that I plan to complete my Michigan State degree down the road.
“This was not an easy decision; just like last season, I had to make a tough decision. There hasn’t been a single day where I regretted my decision to return for my sophomore season. It was the right decision for me and I’m better prepared for a successful NBA career because of it. On top of that, I have another season of memories from being around this year’s team. But now it’s time to chase my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.
“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.”
Quote from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo
“This is a happy day not only for Gary and his family, but also for Tom Izzo and the Spartan basketball program. Seeing a player realize his dream is one of the proudest moments for a coach. I always say you get what you deserve, and no one has worked harder over the last two years to prepare for this moment than Gary Harris. He’s done everything asked of him and more on the court, in the classroom and in the community. And although we all knew that there would be a decision to make regarding the NBA, his focus was 100 percent on Michigan State and his teammates.
“Not only do I fully support and celebrate Gary’s decision, but after my information gathering process, I recommend it. 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.
“The cool thing about this process is that numerous times Gary has expressed to me his desire to always be an active part of this program. Given the relationships he’s developed with his teammates, his coaches, and former players, he’s going to be a valuable resource for me next season.”
Quote from Joy and Gary Harris Sr.
“We would like to thank Coach Izzo, his assistants and everyone associated with the Michigan State basketball program for all the support they’ve shown our son over the years. That includes the assistance they’ve provided during this process, in which they’ve always looked after Gary’s best interests. Like Gary, we are committed to remaining a part of the Spartan basketball program and look forward to attending the former parents’ reunion for years to come. We will make sure that Gary works towards his Michigan State degree in the near future.”
Also from the press release:
“A 2014 First-Team All-Big Ten honoree, Harris averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore. He earned USBWA and NABC All-District accolades and earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team and the NCAA East Regional All-Tournament Team. He was one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award after ranking sixth in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in steals overall (1.8 spg). Voted the MSU Team MVP by both the media and his teammates, Harris was also a member of the All-Big Ten Defensive Team.”
“Over the course of his two seasons, Harris appeared in 69 games, starting 67, and averaged 14.9 points per contest. He totaled 1,025 career points, becoming the 45th player in MSU history with 1,000 career points and just the third Spartan to do it in just two seasons, joining Mike Robinson (1,202 points through two seasons) and Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1,059 points).”