With Harris out, MSU basketball faces shuffling pieces
Now that fifth-year senior shooting guard Eron Harris' season has come to an end, head coach Tom Izzo has a problem on his hands.
Izzo took to the podium Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference for the first time after Harris suffered a career-ending knee injury after the team's 80-63 loss to Purdue on Saturday.
MSU Athletic Communications released a statement Sunday announcing Harris will undergo surgery to repair his right knee. Izzo said he was unsure of the specifics of the injury, but said doctors would not be able to operate on Harris until the swelling goes down — approximately three to four weeks.
"I can’t say it is the most pleasant day, but I can’t say it's the end of the world either," Izzo said in his opening remark. "It is a significant knee injury. If you got a chance to see it on TV, it buckled pretty good. And yet, I am so proud of this kid for how he has handled it. Yesterday, he gave a passionate speech to our players on what they should do. And I thought it was amazing."
Harris played in all 27 games this year and started 24 while averaging 22.9 minutes a game. Harris also shot 43.2 percent from the field, averaged 10.7 points per contest and led the team with 43 shots made from 3-point range at a 38.7 percent clip.
From the season-ending injuries to forwards Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter to the travel-heavy non-conference schedule, Izzo said the team has already faced adversity this season and is still positive his team can grow from Harris' injury and rally around Harris for the rest of the season.
"They have been through the ringer. They've been through it in every way you could be," Izzo said. "We have had some ups and downs. We have had some significant injuries, but thank God I have as good of a group of guys that I have got. Our team's togetherness will help us get through this and we are still pushing towards some of our goals."
Izzo said either senior guard Alvin Ellis III or sophomore guard Matt McQuaid will take over as the team's other starting wing.
At 42.5 percent for the year, Ellis III will come into Thursday's game against Nebraska as the team's leading shooter from 3-point range. He has seen time in every game this season but has only two starts in his collegiate career.
Shooting 33.6 percent from the field this season, McQuaid has played in 26 games and started 11 while posting 19.8 minutes a game. In conference play, however, he has seen a decrease in playing time, checking in at 16.7 minutes a game and two starts while shooting 34.5 percent from the floor.
"I'm not positive what I'm going to do. But, on the other side of the coin, being a senior, (Ellis) has kind of worked his way into deserving," Izzo said. "What I liked about him coming off the bench is he could guard, and he could play multiple positions. You know, leaning towards him right now."
Though his playing days might be over, Izzo said he would make Harris an assistant coach because of his effective leadership abilities. Even though Harris' career lasted just under two seasons at MSU, the Indianapolis native will have a lasting legacy with the Spartans.
"(Harris) left a footprint, a big footprint," Izzo said. "Hopefully that will help carry us forward, and what I mean by that is to just help us understand that you never know when your last day is, so make sure we do what we tell them all the time: Play to your fullest, so you have no regrets when it's done."