Harris plays one last time in MSU's win on senior night
The flashing lights, band blaring at full volume and a standing ovation from the Izzone and Breslin Center crowd — it was the send-off for the MSU men’s basketball senior class. Going out with an 84-74 win over No. 16 Wisconsin, seniors Alvin Ellis III, Matt Van Dyk and even Eron Harris were able to play their final game at home.
Despite a season-ending knee injury, with four seconds left and a 10-point lead, head coach Tom Izzo sent in Harris for his final moments.
A tradition for MSU's basketball teams, Harris hobbled to center-court, laid down and gave his final kiss goodbye to the Spartan helmet.
It was a day of surprises for Harris, because not only did he sub in, but his mother, Marveda Saunders, had the opportunity to sing the national anthem before the Breslin crowd. A complete surprise to Harris, he wept along the sideline, receiving hugs from his teammates.
Eron Harris's reaction to his mom singing the national anthem pic.twitter.com/zbAeyuIs7O— Casey Harrison (@CHarrisonTSN) February 27, 2017
“Senior Day for me is the toughest day of the year,” Izzo said. “It always has been and probably always will be until I’m done. Last night, I laid there and I called my equipment man Dave Pruder and I told him, ‘Don’t tell anybody, but if we get way ahead or way behind, I’m putting Eron (Harris) in. It’s going to be his one shining moment.’ I was able to do that. It felt like everything that’s good about my job.”
Van Dyk was left out of the starting lineup, a non-traditional move from Izzo, however he saw a few seconds in each half. In 2014, Van Dyk walked onto the team. Before his time at MSU, he averaged 16.6 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game for St. Clair Community College.
“There was a lot of emotion,” Van Dyk said, holding back tears. “I can’t even comprehend it all right now, I haven’t even sat down. My head is still spinning. A lot of my family showed up and surprised me by being here, so I’m excited about that. Some guys came back, so I’m excited about that. It’s been a great day, it really has.”
Ellis made his second straight start in replace of the injured Harris. Ellis had a rough night, scoring two points on 0-for-2 shooting and receiving four fouls.
His career as a Spartan almost didn’t happen. Before deciding to play for MSU, Ellis was committed to play for former head coach Tubby Smith at Minnesota. Upon Smith’s firing, Ellis was in a conundrum and Izzo scooped him up to play for the Spartans.
Ellis’ time at MSU was as much of a roller coaster as this season. Dealing with injuries his sophomore season, Ellis had a run-in with the law in the summer of 2015. Even with his troubles, Ellis said he never thought of transferring.
With the highs and lows, Izzo said he was proud of Ellis for seeking his career through at MSU.
“I’m happy for Alvin,” Izzo said after MSU men’s basketball win back on Feb. 14 against Ohio State University. “Any time a kid goes through tough times, this day in age when everybody transfers, quits their job, gets a new job, change here, change there, go to three high schools, four AAU teams, all of the things. It might be a heck of a deal for him and a great way to go out as a senior, so I’m happy for him and proud of him and excited, because hopefully it’ll teach him life lessons that you don’t just get to leave places, sooner or later you need to look in the mirror and say, ‘Am I doing my job?’ And I think he’s done that and he’s worked a lot harder and good things are happening.”
Freshman forward Miles Bridges was asked whether or not this was his last home game at MSU, but he said the game felt like any other game and he wanted to send the seniors out right.
Ellis and Van Dyk will not be done for the season, because MSU (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) will be on the road to face Illinois (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten) on March 1. The game will tipoff at 9 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.