DISCLAIMER: Like the Gunner Kiel recruiting process and Pure Speculation article, I am openly admitting to not adding anything new to the mix. This is purely an exercise in data collection and educated guessing. I have no sources (well, none that I would actually put much faith in) close to the situation. This is merely educated guess work.
The time is almost upon us where 5-star recruit Gary Harris has stated that he will be selecting his college. The choices are down to Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and Kentucky; with three of his four official visits in the books (MSU the only one remaining this weekend). Harris has stated that he wants to make his selection before the start of basketball season and the IHSAA allows Indiana teams to report Monday for full practices, so the time is on us. The early signing period runs from November 9th through November 16th. Therefore Harris’ decision will have to come in the week and a half if he plans to decide as originally stated. The who, what and when are pretty set, the only question left to be answered is the where.
What we know about Harris is that he has great potential to go to a school and be a one and done player if he plays and succeeds in the right program. However, there has been little mention from the Harris camp of his urge to go pro quickly. I personally think from what I have seen from him, he is at least a two year player. The home state universities of Purdue and Indiana have been heavily in on the top recruit for a long time and if you would have asked me in the winter I would have said it would be one of those two schools. Indiana seemed to be a sure thing as late as last November, but that excitement seemed to die off with the passage of time. Purdue really forced their way into the race in January or so and why shouldn’t they? Both Gary Harris Sr. and Joy Harris are Purdue alums.
Michigan State has been the quiet kid at the party this entire time. Tom Izzo and company have been somewhat quietly lurking in the background as Indiana and Purdue put on their dog and pony shows. MSU has shown no flash or flair in the recruiting process, they just seem to be letting the results and the coach speak for themselves. Kentucky was late to the party. Calipari waited until everyone else at the party was drunk before jumping in and looking like a rock star because he’s the only one still sober. They have been able to make a hard push by selling the number of NBA talent that Kentucky has produced in recent years. That also seems to be working pretty well. It really is a tough call.
We know that the Hoosiers have to offer a likely national #1 recruiting class if Harris elects to go to Bloomington. He’ll have a 5-star PG in Yogi Ferrell and 5-star PF in Hanner Perea to help him immediately. Add in 4-star Jeremy Hollowell, underrated players in Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin and you have something to be proud of. The amount of talent in the Hoosiers program would easily be tops in the Big Ten and national title contenders. With Harris, the Hoosiers can offer the moniker of program resurrection and 6th banner in one class. That’s a pretty big deal for a kid from Indianapolis. The downside? With such a large recruiting class, Harris would be forcing someone out to take his scholarship spot. That has to be something that weighs on the Harris family’s mind. The scholarship situation is currently not pretty in Indiana.
On the flip side, Purdue has the same issue. Harris would be the fifth player to the Purdue 2012 class, bringing their roster numbers up to 14. Which means by the time that Fall 2012 rolls around a scholarship player currently on the team would have to leave. However, that recruiting class is attractive as well. Indy native Ronnie Johnson has a lot to offer at PG even if he isn’t of quite the caliber of Ferrell at Indiana. Jay Simpson offers strong support in the front court and AJ Hammons is a project guy that could be All Big Ten by the time his career is up at Purdue. Add that with Harris being a legacy and the force is strong with Purdue. The biggest question with the Boilers is their bureaucracy in the Athletic Department. Sometimes I’m convinced that the AD would prefer Purdue to be awful so they don’t have to spend money on things like coaches and recruiting. That looks to be changing but I’d still want to see the results.
Kentucky has the advantage of having wide open scholarship numbers. They only have 2 recruits for the current 2012 class, so there are scholarships aplenty and you know there is going to be talent filled in around Harris if he chooses Kentucky. The downside to Kentucky is that there is a ton of talent filled around him. Too much talent for a star athlete can be a problem occasionally. If he wants playing time immediately, Kentucky might not be the answer. Some look at their current 5-star commit Archie Goodwin as a negative for Harris since they play the same position, but Kentucky runs a dribble drive offense where the 4 perimeter players have to be roughly interchangeable. Meaning that it isn’t an issue to play next to Goodwin. Where the issue arises is how many other guys will still be around or brought in to compete for time. With the NBA in limbo it’s a bit of a gamble if Harris wants premiere minutes immediately.
Michigan State is the final school in the sweepstakes and the dark horse candidate. If Harris chose State he would be the premiere guy immediately. A recruiting class of big men and a lesser (yet still great) SG leaves him room to come in a play big minutes right away for a coach that can point to every senior graduating with at least 1 Final Four under his belt. That speaks volumes. Harris would have a ton of help in the front court, a coach that is a Hall of Famer, a storied program and plenty of potential for success. Michigan State has been quietly going through this recruiting process without making a lot of noise because they don’t have to.
Indiana has been terrible for three years. Purdue is yet to prove themselves nationally and Kentucky hasn’t set the world on fire despite fielding NBA teams. Michigan State is the one give in this scenario. You know what you’re getting into with the Spartans. From day one Harris can walk into East Lansing and expect the coaching and talent for a Final Four run. Even with a down year last year where they barely made the NCAA tournament, this season they are picked to be near the top of the Big Ten. The Spartans are the conservative choice, the smart choice for one that wants nearly guaranteed success and the right choice if the narrative of your college career isn’t important. At MSU, Harris would quietly be the it guy for his tenure. The way Harris has carried himself through his recruiting process I would say that is an attractive proposition for a kid that doesn’t seem to enjoy the spotlight all that much. My gut tells me within the next two weeks Gary Harris will choose the Michigan State Spartans and Coach Tom Izzo.