LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
Michigan State’s hopes to contend for a Big Ten title next season got a boost Thursday when Gary Harris announced he’s coming back for his sophomore season.
“Playing in the NBA is definitely a goal of mine, and something that I’ve always dreamed of, but those dreams can wait for another day,” Harris said in a statement released by the school. “I think additional experience and maturity will be huge in my development as a player. I have other dreams of things I want to accomplish, both as a player and as a team at Michigan State. I love college life, and I’m no hurry to move on.”
Adreian Payne has not announced whether he is entering the NBA draft or coming back for his senior season. If Payne returns, the Spartans likely would be regarded as one of the top teams in college basketball.
Harris became the first player in program history to be named Big Ten freshman of the year and to be voted MVP by his teammates. He averaged nearly 13 points a game, ranking second on the team, despite playing through shoulder and back injuries.
“Gary had a phenomenal freshman season, but his future is even brighter,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “After gathering many different opinions, it was determined that he would not need surgery on his shoulder. He’s been committed to his rehab and all indications are that he’s making great progress. There’s no question that a healthy Gary Harris is one of the premier guards in the country.”
The 6-foot-4 guard made a team-best 65 3-pointers, making a team-high 41 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. He shared the team’s defensive player of the year award with Keith Appling. Harris was voted to the second All-Big Ten team.
After Michigan State lost to Duke in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 last month, Izzo talked to NBA teams to ask where they would estimate Harris — and Payne — would be selected if they entered the NBA draft.
“I have no doubt that Gary would have been a high pick had he entered the draft, but I’m excited to have the opportunity to coach him next year,” Izzo said.
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