”He has a lot to prove here next year,” Harris said last April. “He’s going to be really good for us. He is going to have to make a decision like I had to pretty soon.”
Last Saturday, Harris was on hand to see Valentine bury a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to give MSU a 59-56 win against Ohio State. Valentine finished 5 of 9 from 3-point range with 17 points to key Michigan State.
Harris said he was surprised not see Valentine pass the ball, but went on to praise the way Valentine has worked on his game.
”You see him putting in all the work and it definitely pays off,” Harris said. “You just gotta keep working. He has been doing it the past two years.
”I’ve seen him put in the work in the gym and when you do that, good things happen like they did tonight.”
Valentine is averaging 14.2 points per game as a junior after averaging 8.0 as a sophomore as MSU made a run to the Elite Eight. He also is shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range compared to 37.7 percent last year – while taking almost twice as many per game. His rebounding average is the same at 6.0, while his assists per game have gone up from 3.8 to 4.2.
But is the changing role that is showing improvement and the type of player he is as much as anything for Valentine.
”He’s definitely improved, don’t get me wrong, but he’s asked to do different things,” Harris said. “If you asked him to, he could do the same stuff he’s doing now last year. With the team we had, it just wasn’t needed. He just needed to come out, defend, pass, facilitate, be an energy guy and knock down shots.
”With this team, he has to do it all. He has to play defense, get guys involved and he has to score the ball.”
A lot of that change has meant finding the right balance in his game, something Harris said he talked with Valentine about prior to Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
”He’s definitely found it, especially over these past few weeks,” he said. “Just being able to control this game and being one of the most productive players on the team.”
Still, Harris said this is not the full capability on display for Valentine.
“He has a lot more coming,” Harris said. “He has a lot more to show you all. Everybody is going to see it in the last part of the season.”