After one year in East Lansing, Gary Harris almost made the jump to the NBA.
A year after deciding to come back for one more season, the Michigan State shooting guard decided it was time to follow his dreams, forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and head for the professional ranks.
"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 a statement. "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."
The Michigan State sophomore is an expected lottery pick in June 26's NBA Draft. He almost certainly will break the Spartans' first-round pick drought that has lasted since Shannon Brown was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2006.
"Not only do I fully support and celebrate Gary's decision, but after my information gathering process, I recommend it," coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "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."
He was named first-team All-Big Ten after averaging 16.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game this season. Harris averaged 12.9 points per game and was named the Big Ten freshman of the year in his first year, which left him facing the decision to turn pro at that time, but he elected to come back for one more season. He said this decision was difficult, just like the one a year earlier.
"I had to make a tough decision," Harris said. "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."
Harris and his parents, Gary Sr and Joy Harris, all emphasized that he will finish his degree.
They also focused on continuing to be a part of the Michigan State program, something Izzo noted.
"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," he said. "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."
In his two-year career, Harris became the 45th player in Michigan State history with 1,000 points as he totaled 1,025 points. He joined Magic Johnson and Mike Robinson as the only three players to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in just two seasons.
Harris is the fifth Michigan State player to declare early for the NBA Draft, joining Shannon Brown (2006), Zach Randolph (2001), Jason Richardson (2001) and Marcus Taylor (2002).