The RTC All-Big Ten Team: Michigan State’s Gary HarrisPosted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 12th, 2014
Next up on the countdown of the RTC All-Big Ten team is a sophomore with a silky smooth shot from beyond the arc: Michigan State’s Gary Harris. One of the questions surrounding the Spartans at the beginning of the season was whether they could manufacture enough offense when needed and Harris’s performance this season has affirmatively addressed that dilemma. As a freshman, he was a one-dimensional player who could nail the long-range shot effectively (41% 3FG), but as a sophomore, he has blossomed into an effective scorer that is just as dangerous off the dribble.
Why Gary Harris is the second best player in the league: The simple answer to that question is that Harris is the best player on the second-best team in the Big Ten. Statistics such as 55.4% TS and 31.8% FT Rate show his prowess on the offensive end, but there is no metric that measures his durability on a team that has nursed injuries since January. Over the past two months, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson have all missed significant time, but Harris’ consistency kept the Spartans in contention for the Big Ten title. One or two off nights from the sophomore guard could have resulted in another loss or two, which would have dropped the Spartans down to the #5-#6 seed range for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Taking almost 30 percent of the team’s total shot attempts and still managing a reasonable true shooting percentage shows his discipline as a scorer. In addition to his offensive contributions, Harris has established himself as the clear-cut go-to guy on Tom Izzo’s team — this distinction will provide clarity for a team that is still struggling to regain team chemistry because of a lack of continuity from the starting rotation.
Signature Moment: After scoring at least 20 points in six of the 18 games during the conference season, it is tough to pick out a single signature moment for Harris. One of his most impressive performances was a dominant showing at Illinois in mid-January, where he scored 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Yes, it was against Illinois – a team that is unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament – but it was against a squad that badly needed a win. Harris’ performance was more impressive than usual because he didn’t force anything and let the offense come to him, a clear sign of maturity. That game set him up for the rest of the regular season, as he weathered injury after injury around him but continued to stick within Izzo’s systematic game plan to keep his team in contention.
Going Forward: During the immediate short term, Harris will showcase his talents on the national stage against some of the other talented teams around the country. Let’s not forget that he is only a year older than Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, two top-five prospects for this summer’s NBA Draft. Therefore, Harris is expected to have several opportunities to prove to the college basketball world that he is not only a great player in the Big Ten, but arguably one of the best in the entire country. His performance this March probably determine whether he decides to return to East Lansing for his junior season.