Hamilton Southeastern guard Gary Harris is a hot topic around basketball in Indiana. The 6-6, 200-pound senior is the best uncommitted basketball player in the 2012 class from Indiana. He is the 25th best player in the country according to Rivals.com.
Harris is a freak athlete, who could probably play basketball or football wherever he likes. He holds plenty of offers from schools in each sport. Ultimately, he believes he has the brightest future in basketball so he will continue playing next year in college. Where, nobody is sure at this point.
This next month is crucial for Harris to decide what university and basketball team he likes the best and best fits his game. He has it down to four schools and will visit each of them over the next month.
Harris already visited Purdue on October 1st, he’s at Indiana this weekend and he’s schedule to visit Kentucky on October 22nd, Michigan State November 5th.
He could wind up at any of the four schools so below I highlight what each university has to offer (in alphabetical order).
The Hoosiers already have the top-ranked class coming in next year with Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Ron Patterson, Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin. They have been down the last three years but have gained recent momentum with Cody Zeller making it “cool again” to remain in state.
Despite the troubled times, Crean set his eyes on Harris from the very beginning. He’s been to his high school football and basketball games in addition to AAU ball in the summer. Harris would immediately make Indiana better and help restore a program to glory…all while doing it with some good friends.
Basketball in Indiana is king and the fans are one of the most loyal groups in the country. IU has the largest student section in the country and each home game there would be 17,000 strong. The Hoosiers also get tremendous television exposure on CBS, ESPN and the Big Ten Network.
The school is beautiful, the females are beautiful and the facilities are exceptional. Cook Hall provides unbelievable access and unique features that very few schools have. Tom Crean is a very active, involved coach and one that could help elevate Harris to the next level.
From the minute he’d walk onto campus, he’d be a total rock star. He’s just another player to UK, MSU and PU. At Indiana, he would be a difference maker, play with and against top talent, and take pride in building the Hoosiers back up.
Coach Calipari and Kentucky is a different element. The top priority of anyone going to Kentucky should be excellent instruction with an eye on the NBA. That’s what Cal does best. Kentucky has an enthusiastic fan base. Despite great talent over the last few years, Coach Cal (wherever he has been) and the Wildcats have not won a national title which is disappointing.
Kentucky is a top-five basketball school in the country right now with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas. Each year, some of the best around the country take their talents to Lexington to play for Big Blue Nation. At UK, Harris may not be the best player but he would play with and against some of the best. That could only help with his game. He wouldn’t be expected to carry the team immediately and Calipari would make Harris better. We’ve seen what he’s done with guys in the past, guards especially, and so Gary could expect the same.
It would be challenging for Harris to play down in Kentucky each year but he would be surrounded with top-ranked guys. He may be able to scrimmage against some of Coach Cal’s guys like John Wall and LeBron James who make frequent trips to Lexington.
Many scouts and coaches believes Harris is good enough for the NBA if he gets stronger and improves even more. He’s young for his age which is unbelievable, so time is on his side. Although Calipari recently got into the recruiting chase for Harris, he has made a strong, late push and would be a great coach to improve Harris’ skills.
First thing that comes to mind is Tom Izzo. The long-tenured coach has made Michigan State a basketball powerhouse and a team that’s fun to watch. One note Izzo can throw out to recruits–in their four years at MSU, they will play in a Final Four. Up until now, that has been the case. He is so respected that the Cleveland Cavaliers offered him their head coaching position but he turned it down.
The Spartans get basketball and the Breslin Center is one of the toughest places to play in the country. Harris would be a good fit at MSU and would be seen nationally against top Big Ten talent. They aren’t up-in-arms with basketball like IU or UK for instance so they wouldn’t feel his loss as much. Harris has liked Michigan State for some time and would continue to make the Spartans a winning program.
The Boilermakers have won consistently over the last few years and there’s no reason to think that’ll stop. Matt Painter took over for Gene Keady and has done a great job at his alma mater. Purdue has four other talented commits in the 2012 class, all ranked in the Rivals.com top-125.
Purdue has gotten more serious about basketball, giving Painter a better contract and improving their facilities. The newly renovated Mackey Arena is very impressive and a practice facility is still to come. Thanks to a great team last year, Mackey Arena nearly sold-out every home game. The Boilers are still chasing their elusive first NCAA title.
Matt Painter and staff have proven they know how to coach and make players better. They may not necessarily go after the top talent but the guys they get improve and contribute each year. Harris would bring credibility to Purdue and prove that they can land top Indiana recruits. He is also good friends with players in his class headed there and some already on the team. Gary’s mother Joy played at Purdue so there’s some familiarity up there.
Gary Harris will choose one of these universities next month. This will undoubtedly be one of the toughest decisions he has had to make in his life. With Indiana and Purdue, Harris would stay in state and be closer to home.
Crean, Izzo and Painter have all been to a variety of events Harris has participated in for years. They have been on him hard over the last three years or so. Kentucky on the other hand showed some interest earlier this year, but just last month visited him and talked to Harris about his future. At each of the schools, Harris would immediately figure into the rotation and get quality minutes…there’s no question he would make them all better.
This is Harris’ decision and his alone. That is why I presented the argument for each of the four schools, and may the best situation for the young man win.
Either way, we will all enjoy following his career.