Harris explains decision to leave while Dawson chooses to stay

It was a decision that was expected all season by teammates, coaches, fans and alumni, and it became official Monday afternoon when MSU sophomore guard Gary Harris announced his declaration for the NBA Draft.

“It’s like the weight’s off my shoulder honestly,” Harris told media at a briefing on Tuesday. “Everybody has been asking me what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do, and I hadn’t decided yet, but now that I’ve made my decision, I’m happy with the decision I made and looking forward to start working toward the next step.”

With the decision, Harris officially forgoes his final two seasons of college eligibility at MSU after arriving with sufficient fanfare as a five-star recruit out of Fishers, Ind.

Harris said he had been contemplating the decision for the past few weeks, with the announcement officially coming on Monday. It had dawned on him as he was walking off the floor at Madison Square Garden that the loss to Connecticut in the Elite Eight could be his final game in the green and white.

Harris finished this season averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists, and was selected to the All-Big Ten first team.

The 6-foot-4 guard is viewed as a first-round lock and potential lottery selection in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft.

Although his play the last two seasons have put him in a position to be off the board early on June 26, Harris said the decision was still a difficult one to make.

Harris added the “unknown” of where he’ll be next year and potentially not having his parents in driving distance is another factor that crossed his mind during the decision.

The next step for Harris will be to choose an agent and begin preparation for the draft, but he did state he will finish out his classes for this semester. Harris also plans to eventually take summer and online classes to complete his degree.

Dawson to return for senior season

Junior forward Branden Dawson, on the other hand, announced his decision to return to MSU on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Harris addressed the media.

Dawson averaged more than 11 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds for the Spartans this past season and considered a jump to the pros after a impressive stretch of games at the end of the year.

Dawson missed 10 games this past season, including nine in a row after breaking his hand after hitting a table while watching film in January.

In MSU’s NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight, Dawson averaged 16 points and almost nine rebounds. He was viewed by experts as a fringe draft pick, and returning for his senior season allows Dawson to bolster his draft stock by improving his jump shot and ball-handling.

“I was always pretty sure that I wanted to return for my senior season, but (head coach Tom) Izzo said he would do what he does for all his players and gather some information,” Dawson said in a statement.

He said he and his mother visited with Izzo during the process and finalized the decision to stay.

Izzo said he conducted his “due diligence” in researching Dawson’s NBA Draft prospects, but before getting too far into the process, Izzo said Dawson and his mom approached him and expressed Dawson’s desire to return to MSU.

State News sports editor Beau Hayhoe contributed to this report.

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