Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Eron Harris scored 32 points in West Virginia’s 88-75 loss to Baylor, one of his best performances during a breakout sophomore season.

 

Eron Harris is headed to East Lansing on Saturday, to the land of Sparty and Izzo, to his second college home.

Some of the disappointed friends he left behind in West Virginia were happy to see him land at a Big Ten powerhouse. Other fans of a less-rational ilk discarded him the moment he took off the Mountaineers jersey, pegging him as disloyal, an inconsistent scorer and a half-hearted defender.

“I don’t blame them, because that’s where they grew up and that’s the school they love and have always supported,” Harris told MetroNews on Friday. “Fans have a right to their opinions and you can’t change them. But they only see what’s on the court, and they don’t see the other stuff. They don’t know my life.”

“I came through (Morgantown) and learned some things. There were some good things that happened to me and some bad things that happened. And I appreciate all the fans that showed me love, I really do.” — Eron Harris

After compiling two surprisingly good statistical seasons on two not-so-good teams at West Virginia, Harris transferred out and transferred up, to a program that has hung six Final Fours banners in the past 15 years. The guard didn’t have to expound on what led him to leave Morgantown, didn’t owe the public an exit interview. But after keeping a low profile during his transfer process, the player whose ruminative postgame reflections gave rise to the nickname “Harristotle” provided some context about what was missing.

“At West Virginia, I just didn’t feel like my life was whole,” he said. “The basketball part was going pretty well, but I felt stressed in some other areas.”

The basketball part is what we see, or at least think we see. Detractors of Bob Huggins given the spate of recent transfers say his style is too abrasive. Lovers of Huggs point to 740 career wins and say thin-skinned players can benefit from hard coaching.

Eron’s father Eric Harris told The Detroit News the family respects Huggins but “the coaching style at West Virginia wasn’t a match for Eron.”

Now the player shifts from one Hall-of-Fame coach to another. Though Tom Izzo may communicate in a slightly different manner, his demands will be no less intense.

“I know Coach Izzo’s going to be hard on me, because he told me that himself,” Harris said. “And I’m going to give him 100 percent, everything I’ve got.”

Shortly after Harris requested his release from WVU in late March, a flurry of blueblood programs contacted him. Teams like UCLA, Louisville  and Kentucky, teams that didn’t give him a sniff when he came out of Indianapolis’ Lawrence North High School in 2012.

“I’m pretty sure they all knew who I was, just because I played on some teams with highly recruited players,” he said. “But those major programs didn’t pay too much attention to me personally. I mean, when I decided to transfer was the first time I got to have a dialogue with Coach Izzo. None of those high majors contacted me back then.”

West Virginia only took notice after the insistence of a high school assistant who thought WVU’s motion offense matched the system Harris played at Lawrence North. That coach called Mountaineers assistant Larry Harrison and scheduled a morning workout.

“I think I barely missed a shot during that workout, and the next thing you know, Coach Huggs came down to my house and offered a scholarship,” Harris said. “It happened just like that. Going to West Virginia was sort of out-of-nowhere.”

Just like that, Harris had a high-profile offer, one promising chartered flights and countless more TV appearances than the mid-majors could provide. Though grateful, he had no emotional ties to West Virginia, no sense of the program’s history. It was a microwaved courtship not uncommon as college coaches seek to fill roster spots amid the compression of the NCAA recruiting calendar.

The 17.2 points Harris scored last season certainly changed opinions about his skill level. Showing unconscionable range at times, he became the Big 12′s fourth-leading scorer, though curiously the coaches didn’t vote him to the all-conference first, second or even third team.

“I know Coach Izzo’s going to be hard on me, because he told me that himself. And I’m going to give him 100 percent, everything I’ve got.” — Harris on signing with Michigan State

Even with elite teams pursuing him recently, Harris realizes his game is lightyears from complete. Just as in high school, he carries no delusions about success falling in his lap. He dreams of an NBA career and knows the dream won’t materialize without diligence, production and luck. Before he plays one game for Michigan State, he must sit out next season, spending a year in anonymity that could prove pivotal.

“I want to put on a solid 10 pounds, stay consistent with my jumper, improve my ballhandling and become a better defender,” Harris said. “I’m really just another guy who’s trying to get better—trying to better myself in basketball and in life.”

When Harris left, with his best two years presumably in front of him, West Virginia and Huggins lost a valuable player. If there’s a silver-lining spin to his exit, it’s that the staff can develop a little-known prospect into one of the country’s most sought-after transfer.

Harris wasn’t about to spew criticism at Huggins, or even at the fans who tweeted “quitter.” He categorized his two-year stay at West Virginia as an enlightening and beneficial experience, just not one he wanted to represent his whole college experience.

“I came through there and learned some things. There were some good things that happened to me and some bad things that happened,” Harris said. “And I appreciate all the fans that showed me love, I really do.”

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Comments

  • Atlanta Joel

    Transfers go both ways, folks.

    You may lose Eron Harris but you wouldn't have Juwan Staten if not for transfers.

  • Atlanta Joel

    1. Harris seems sincere. That alone is important in this story.
    2. I don't agree with Huggins style of coaching.
    740 wins or not.
    3. It's America folks. You can go where you want.

  • Charleston

    AT: Is there anyway you could attach that broadcasted interview from Metronews last Friday? I am also curious as to who(m) performed the interview? Much appreciated.

  • WVU FAN

    Good luck to him...


    Let's Goooooooooo!!!! Mountaineeeeeeeers!!!!!

  • Robin

    Too many times we fail to accept these young men are just young men. They are out on their own for the first time, they get homesick, they second guess their decisions.

    You are right, he did not have to give an exit interview. I am glad he did and I wish the young man success and happiness. Thanks for two good years.

  • Rick55

    If Eron uses his year of ineligibility to improve himself like Juwan used his, not only to get on the practice court but also to really study the game, I can begin to understand the transfer. But in general I think you need to I improve your shot, your ball handling, and your defense in practice, then be able to put that improvement onto the court twice a week in real games against real competition. I am sure Eron WAS asked straight up why he transferred and Huggins, but he wisely did not want to go there, stayed positive and have positive answers to these sensitive questions, to his credit. He seems like a fine young man, well-spoken and intelligent. He should go far in life.

  • Ricardo

    Now why do you think Izzo would tell him that he would be tough on him... Because he was crying in front of Izzo about how hard Huggs was on him.

    I wish the kid luck, but if he left due to hard coaching, it will only get worse at MSU. However, if he left do to lack of coaching, it will get a lot better at MSU.

  • WESTeraFANofWVUsports

    Absolutely an offense loss that would have been a heavy contributor next year. Huggs would still encourage him to play defense and rebound for Jr year and say little to him in his Sr year.

    Something is wrong with the system to allow things like this to happen. This could be a blueprint for future scams in college sports. A player goes into a program for a couple years to develop his game. An unscrupulous program could "hire" several desirable players to sit out a year while developing their skills and load up for two years running at national title. Of course a fair amount of money would be transferred to each of the transferring students.

    It would give the students the benefit of an extra year of development under a high profile coach and two years of participating at a higher level. They would be much more attractive to the NBA.

    NCAA is going to have to get proactive to guard against this potential practice. The first step should be to charge a year of eligibility for the year the player is sitting out. There appears to be a growing trend to transfer after a year or two. I have not heard of any absolute charges or proof that money is used to encourage the practice. But it is too attractive to ignore the potential.

  • Frank/Moundsville

    Both football and basketball are "melting down" at WVU. We need a clean slate starting with Luck. Then the new AD can find us some quality, motivated football and basketball coaches. Huggins and Holgorson are both making too much money and are just "coasting".

    • Atlanta Joel

      Frank / Moundsville,
      Luck isn't the problem, he's the guy trying to fix the problems...like Huggins and his lifetime contract, courtesy of your hometown boy, Ed Passed Along.

    • jaxon71178

      Yeah because any new AD we hire will automatically go out and get nick saban and john calipari to come coach at west virginia. some people are just stupid morons!!!

  • squad

    the real thing with eron may not be where he ends up at all but rather, will he play defense? I think we saw stretches early last year but consistency is a big Q. even offensively, you cant go 25-5-21-6 and get by. I don't know if maybe he will be the off the bench spark, who knows. but if his toughness increases (both mental and physical-lower body) he could be a player for them.

  • Charles

    One word.....GUTLESS!!! Tom Izzo is also one of the few old school coaches still around. It's just a career that will in end a fizzle. Time will tell!

  • Low Rider

    I wish Eron the best. But I believe he will regret his choice in the long run. He had the potential to be a stud at WVU and have his name mentioned for years by our fan base. Instead he will be just another player at Michigan State.

  • Ghost Rider

    Michigan State has one of the top basketball programs in the country and Coach Izzo is a hall of fame coach. I wish Eron Harris the very best and hope he gets to play on a national championship team before his career is over. I don't know why he wanted to leave WVU, but he has the right to make his own decisions.

  • Shawn

    Gonna have to sit out this year,and when Izzo gets a Freshman 2 years down the road who is still better than him, he'll be on the bench again lol. BYE ERON.

  • Jay zoom

    Good luck at Michigan State mr Harris u will be better off in the long run you will be treated like a human rather than dirt. you will also be playing for winners rather than an also ran in the big 12 THANKS OLLIE -- also to one and done I wish you a speedy recovery