TULSA, Okla. — The Michigan State players jumped, skipped and spun around as they headed off the BOK Center floor Friday night following their 78-58 win over Miami (Fla.).
Even Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling, still recovering from season-ending knee injuries, had some pep in their step heading back to the locker room. The assistant coaches soon followed.
Then about a minute later, Eron Harris headed through the tunnel. His right knee straightened by a brace, the injured senior guard limped his way off the floor, fervently clapping his hands.
“My first NCAA Tournament win ever!” he shouted.
The words didn’t seem to be directed at anyone in particular. He just wanted to emphasize to himself the significance of the moment.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’ve been in a tournament with this team, so I know what it feels like to get past a first round. But it’s the NCAA Tournament, so it’s a whole different feel to it. I’m just ready to keep going forward. There’s always a time for something new in your life.”
In Harris’ two seasons at West Virginia, the Mountaineers failed to make the tournament at all. And after transferring to Michigan State, Harris had to sit out as the Spartans made a Final Four run in 2015.
He may have been relegated to the bench this time around, but as a senior with multiple years of experience in the program, he continues to take an active role. That’s just what he did when Michigan State fell behind 10-0 on Friday night.
“All the guys, whether you’re playing or not, we’re like coaches,” Harris said. “Everybody on the bench is like a coach. You get to watch the game from the bench and give your input.
“I can always have fun, too. I had fun cheering my team on and hanging with the guys on the bench. We would have some fun, but be serious at the same time. I’m happy to move on.”
Harris has accepted that his playing days at Michigan State are over. When he hits the floor again, he’ll be looking to land a professional contract. There’s still a yearning to get out there, but even if he’ll only be gearing up in his jumpsuit he plans to have a positive impact on the Spartans.
“I’m not gonna be able to play any more college basketball,” Harris said. “I just want these guys to maximize what they can get out of this season. I’m just gonna ride along, but I’m gonna give what I can give.”