Gary Harris not worried about height: 'I'm a basketball player'

Gary Harris not worried about height: 'I'm a basketball player'
June 8, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Mark Strotman

As far as NBA standards go, Gary Harris is considered short.

As far as his standards go, however, he'll be just fine.

The Michigan State shooting guard measured just 6-foot-2 1/2 without shoes on at last month's NBA Draft Combine and 6-foot-4 1/2 with them on, both considered shorter marks for potential shooting guards at the next level. And even though he opted not to participate in the workout portion of the combine — meaning his measurables were the only thing he was judged on during the two-day combine in Chicago — he's confident the work he put in the last two seasons in East Lansing will speak louder than his less than optimal height.

"I don't know what's going on with (the measurements), but at least I'm not playing barefoot, I guess," he said. "I'm a basketball player. (My height) might not look good to some people, but I'm going to go out there and compete, regardless of how tall I am. Officially, unofficially, I'm gonna go out there and play my hardest regardless."

You'd be hard-pressed to find any Big Ten opponents who felt as though Harris' height limited him. In his sophomore season the 2-guard averaged 16.7 points, 2.3 3-pointers and 1.8 steals in more than 32 minutes per game. He put together scoring outputs of 24, 25, 26 and 27 points, respectively, in Big Ten play and played a key role in the Spartans' 29-win season that included a Big Ten Tournament championship and Elite Eight berth.

[MORE: NBA Draft Profile: Gary Harris]

Playing alongside power forward Adreian Payne — a fellow expected first-rounder — Harris improved in just about every statistical category from his freshman season. That included his passing, which improved from 1.4 assists per game to 2.7, while his assist-to-turnover ratio nearly doubled. And while he believes he can compete in the NBA as a shooting guard, his height limitations mean he'll also need to contribute as a distributor with the ball in his hands.

"I worked on that a little bit my sophomore year at Michigan State. I got better as the season progressed, just being able to get my teammates the ball," he said. "The misconception would be the height issue. I've played against bigger guards in the Big Ten all year, I was able to hold my own. I know it's a different level but just because I may not be typical size for an NBA 2-guard, I feel like I can still go out there and compete and play. Like I said, I'm a basketball player."

Harris' name has popped up in mock drafts anywhere from the back-end of the lottery to the middle of the first round. With the Bulls holding both the No. 16 and No. 19 picks and needing outside shooting, the Spartan guard is a potential fit in Chicago. At the time of the combine he had already spoken with the Bulls brass and came away impressed with what he saw and heard.

"The interview was great. They have a bunch of great guys in there and a great staff, and they definitely win games," he said. "They have a history of winning, they're in the playoffs almost every year, so that could be a good situation for me. It just depends on which team and what situation I go into. But just going in there, fulfilling my role and doing my duties for the team."

Harris' height isn't ideal and he isn't as tall as the other top-projected shooting guards such as Andrew Wiggins (6-foot-8), Nik Stauskas (6-foot-6), or James Young (6-foot-7). But the fact that he's still regarded as a lottery pick should tell scouts and critics everything they need to know about his talent and character.

Whether or not his height affects his draft status, Harris said he's going through what his former teammates now in the NBA said was the "toughest part" with the right attitude.

"I just want to be drafted to the right fit," he said. "I just want to hear my name called."