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

  • Mark

    No loyalty to the ONLY coaching staff that gave him a shot. No loyalty to the staff and school who worked diligently with him to become a progressively better player. No loyalty to the teammates who have endured 2 difficult years together and were finally poised to turn things around. No loyalty to the school that gave him a scholarship and all of the perks that go with it. No loyalty to the fans of this state who also endured tough seasons and inconsistent play but still supported Eron, Terry and the guys with their attendance. I hope we have a super record and go far in the tournament, just for spite.

    • don

      Mark, you are absolutely right, but I'm afraid your wish for us to go far in the tournament won't be coming true. I see another "wait till next year" season ahead of us. I've never been in the Huggins haters club but after 3 consecutive humiliating seasons I am beginning to question his ability to recruit & coach. Maybe it is time to start looking around.

    • LDB

      +1

  • thr

    willie Clueless! That is all.

  • Derek

    Just be gone!!! Adios!!!

  • d

    Luck needs to fire Huggins, but he won't for a while because he is alumni. The guy brow beats all his players continuously, who could take that. What a motivator & encourager...NOT

    • Steve

      And replace him with whom. Finish your deal if you bring it up. I don't think a lot of hall of famers are beating down the door to get the job.

      • Rick S.

        I am not saying fire Bob Huggins. So don't read that into this comment.

        But if Huggins were to no longer be the coach here, you could bet your bottom dollar that there would be dozens of highly qualified coaches apply for the job. And it would be Oliver Luck's job to hire one of them.

        • Aaron

          I think Bob Bolen would be an excellent hire as an assistant and potentially associate head coach.

  • Aaron

    As one of the ilk, that questioned his game, I do wish him well. Hopefully, whatever it is that Eron Harris is looking for, he will find in East Lansing.

    I do give him huge props on the exit interview as well. As was pointed out in the story, he owed it to no one but for him to grant the interview (I assume Allen sought it out and not the other way around) demonstrates maturity for one in his position.

    As for the story itself, doesn't the characterization of fans who commented on his game, or lack thereof as "less-rational ilk" place the author in our wheelhouse?

    If not, I would say that as the other 9 league coaches failed to name him one of the top 15 players in the league despite being the 4th leading scorer, likely because of his inconsistent scoring and defense, I'm in good company as they must be less rational ilk also.

    The last thing I will say is that while I wish young Mr. Harris well, I wish his parents would have spelled his name correctly.

  • william

    "Sweatsuit" Huggins was the true reason he left WVU
    Why would any good high school players EVER play for this coach?
    Fact - He throws his players UNDER THE BUS all the time.
    Any recruits out there, stay far away from "Sweatsuit", it is a BIG mistake to play for this guy.
    He is a terrible coach in so many ways
    My advise - run, run as far away from HUGGINS you can get, it will make you a better person.

    • MGD

      William, I would bet my next two paychecks you have never played a game of basketball in your life! The only sweatsuit you should be concerned with is the one you have been wearing for the last three days while living in your mom's basement.

    • Steve

      And what reason did he come? If not for Huggs he would be playing for div iii or somewhere else. Your crazy. These whining kids change schools if they don't get their way. He had it made. If he would play defense he wouldn't get brow beaten. Why do you and these kids expect to not get brow beaten? You whine as much as the kids.

  • thr

    Good luck EH. In time you will find out you would have been a "WHOLE" lot better off, right where you were at.

  • uncle phil

    Good job Eron! Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer!

    Go WVU and go MSU!

    I've got a feeling Eron's going to get himself a national championship!

    • LDB

      From the bench. No defense.

      • Aaron

        Perhaps but he has almost 18 months to work on his ball handling skills and his defense and if at that time, he's a role player brought in to score, I'm sure he will thrive.

  • Hop'sHip

    Good interview, Allan, only I wish you could have gotten him to expound on the "bad things that happened." I wish him well. He landed in a great program led by a great coach.

    • william

      Bad Things? - 3 woods answers that -
      Bob "Sweatsuit" Huggins

      • ernie

        "woods"... You are an idiot.

        • Hailey

          Yes she is

  • Dave

    Good luck Eron. Follow your dreams.

  • mad hatter

    in a nutshell, Eron tells us exactly why wvu will never again be a BB power as long as higgie is HC.
    It's a shame, we have great donors and great fans, but we need a sober , respectful HC , and IMO, we don't have one.
    Yes, maybe HOF, maybe, but that was light yrs ago,,what have you done for us over the last three yrs. with all your recruits.
    .500 maybe. Sad, i am embarrassed at his salary, and how little we are getting.
    Donors, i salute you, you're great people, great mountaineers, but how long will you put up with this past tense coach.
    Continue drinking the kool aid, and we'll continue to be entrenched in sub mediocrity

    • Aaron

      I don't suppose you can clarify how Harris said anything that supports your irrational vitriol towards Coach Huggins, can you hatter?

  • Martinsburg Resident

    Good luck Mr. Harris.... Remember: "Once a Mountaineer - Always a Mountaineer!" Hope to see you in a Final 4!

    • Jed

      He was never a Mountaineer.

      • Jay

        You can't be serious!

  • JTC

    This is no Defense for his transfer, or in his game either. See Ya!

  • Mountainman

    "At West Virginia, I just didn't feel like my life was whole"...... well, neither was your game Eron.

    Good luck, and hopefully during your year off you'll get your head screwed on straight.

  • rick

    QUITTER!!

    • Allan Taylor

      @Rick: Just wondering if you screamed "quitter" at Juwan Staten last season, considering he transferred out of Dayton much in the same manner Harris left WVU? ... Underclassmen have limited mobility under NCAA rules—being required to sit out a year—so when a guy is willing to accept that year off in order to change his situation, I don't understand your vitriol.

      • Aaron

        A very valid question young Mr. Taylor as clearly rick is irrational. I would say his vitriol towards Mr. Harris is in line with William's and mad hatter's vitriol towards Coach Huggins posted on an almost daily basis. Is there a reason that vitriol is tolerable on these pages?

        • K9

          Yeah, it's called freedom of speech.

          • Aaron

            Fighting for the Constitution is one thing. Understanding it seems to be another. A private entity that includes a media sight message board can and often is subject to censorship.

          • Charlie

            K9,

            I support your view. As an American, I love this country, fought for this country, and believe in its founding values and principles. Our right to speak and write our opinion is part of our heritage thorough the US Constitution/Bill of Rights.

            I am quite happy to see people post what they choose to post as it reminds me that as of today, those freedoms are still intact. I believe one measure of a man's character is how we react to opposing views all the while espousing ours under those same freedoms.

            Respectfully sibmitted.

          • Aaron

            If it is your contention that the Anti's such as Larry, Hatter, Barry, William, jay zoom and 4wvuky can claim to be WVU fans and say what ever they want without impunity because they have freedom of speech then you are on their intelligence level and I got to tell you man, that's not a good place to be cause the brightest of the bunch ain't pushing 3 digit IQ levels.