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Complete player Harris ready for the next step
by Adam Fluck
Posted on May 23
With the occasional exception of a few late bloomers, most players selected in the NBA Draft have been playing the game of basketball their entire lives.
But as this year’s prospects ready themselves for the June 26 draft, few have been groomed for this process like shooting guard Gary Harris.
Harris’ mother is Joy Holmes-Harris, Purdue’s first All-American women’s player who went on to be a member of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in 2000. Having her in his life not only ensured basketball would also be a part of his; it helped prepare him for what he’s now experiencing.
“My mom has been through this but on a different level,” Harris said at the NBA Draft Combine earlier this month. “Growing up with a ball in my hands, it’s all I’ve known my whole life. I was playing at a very young age and to see it take me this far is amazing.”
Harris, a 6-5, 205-pounder, left Michigan State after a sophomore year in which he averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
He earned 2014 First-Team All-Big Ten honors and became one of three players in MSU history to score 1,000 career points in just two seasons, joining Mike Robinson and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Harris was also a member of the 2014 All-Big Ten Defensive Team.
Prior to his arrival at Michigan State, Harris in 2012 was a McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Basketball winner for the state of Indiana as a high school senior at Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers.
Now, as Harris works his way into the NBA, he’s doing so with the reputation of being a complete player who is sound both offensively and defensively.
“A lot of people like the way that I play both ends,” said Harris of feedback he received in early meetings with NBA teams. “[They tell me] to just continue to get better.”
This past March, Harris’ Spartans fell to eventual national champion Connecticut Huskies in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament. While the Final Four eluded Harris and his teammates in his two collegiate seasons, he left East Lansing with an abundance of memories and relationships he believes will last a lifetime.
“Of course there were a lot of big games we played in,” said Harris, who will turn 20 on Sept. 14. “But I feel like the bonds that I made with my teammates and coaches is something that can’t be topped. I feel like we’re all going to be close for a very long time.”
Harris also said he considers playing for Spartans coach Tom Izzo as one of his biggest strengths as he auditions for potential NBA suitors.
“Amazing,” said Harris of that experience. “[Coach Izzo] is a great guy. He’s a great coach but even a better person. He’s someone I can really trust and depend on when I need to. He taught me a lot and there’s a lot that I can use in the NBA. He helped me prepare.”
Though Harris is projected to be a lottery pick and the Bulls currently hold the 16th and 19th selections, he’d be just fine with ending up in Chicago should that scenario occur.
“I feel like I could fit right in,” Harris said when asked about the Bulls. “They have a good situation there and if I was fortunate enough to step into that program, I feel like that’d be great.”
Harris added he’s familiar with the defensive-minded nature of the Bulls, another enticing factor: “Definitely, what were they, the number one defensive team this year? I would like to think my game appeals to their team.”
Bulls.com was in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine May 15-16 in Chicago and this is the second in a series of looks at some of the projected first round picks. The Bulls currently own three selections in this summer’s June 26 draft—16th, 19th and 49th.