March 10, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Four members of the Michigan State men’s basketball team earned All-Big Ten honors, as announced by the conference office on Monday, March 10.
Sophomore guard Gary Harris represents the Spartans on the All-Big Ten First Team for the first time in his career after being named the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He was also named to the league’s All-Defensive Team.
“It means a lot,” said Harris. “That’s definitely a very prestigious award to get. I’m just thankful to get it, but without my teammates, that doesn’t happen. They deserve just as much credit, if not more than me, for helping me get this award.”
Both voting panels also placed senior forward Adreian Payne on the second team, while both senior guard Keith Appling and sophomore guard Denzel Valentine received honorable mention recognition. Valentine was also the MSU honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
“It was a rough season for us when you talk about trying to make some of those teams, which is very difficult,” said head coach Tom Izzo. “Gary Harris played the entire Big Ten season and Valentine did, but at a few different positions. WithGary, I think it was a case where he earned it and he was here the whole time. When you look at Adreian Payne or whoever else was a Second-Team selection, I think if he had been here all season, he probably would’ve been a First-Team and more. With Keith Appling, he missed some critical moments, both before he got injured because of the hand and when he sat out.
“I’m proud of what all four of them did under the circumstances they had to do it with. They all survived, they all made it. I think they all could have been even a little higher, but I understand it just because of the way they had to go through the entire Big Ten season.”
Harris leads the team and is third in the conference in scoring (17.5 ppg), tallying 20 points or more a team-best 10 times this season. The Fishers, Ind., native has recorded 54 steals on the season, good for third in the Big Ten with 1.9 spg.
In conference games, Harris ranks fourth in scoring (17.2 ppg) and second in steals (2.3 spg). He is one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award and is listed on both the Oscar Robertson Trophy and Naismith Award Midseason Watch Lists. Harris also ranks second in the conference with a team-high 70 made 3-point shots. He leads the team and is eighth in the conference, shooting .803 percent from the charity line.
A two-time member of the All-Big Ten second team, Adreian Payne leads the Spartans with 16 career double-doubles, including six this season. He is second in the Big Ten with 7.5 rebounds per game, and also sits in second in defensive rebounds with 5.8 per game.
After missing seven games due to a foot sprain, the Dayton, Ohio native is averaging 15.9 points in the last nine games. Overall, he ranks seventh in the Big Ten in scoring (16.1 ppg), and his .423 3-point field-goal percentage is good for fifth in the conference. Though he only shot 1-of-4 from 3-point range in his first 87 games of his career, he is averaging a little over one make per game over his last 44 games. Payne is also second in the MSU record books with 133 career blocks. He was twice named Big Ten Player of the Week (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23) and was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list.
Senior Keith Appling, who leads the Spartans with 133 assists, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He ranks second in the Big Ten in assists (4.8 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2). The MVP of the 2013 Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic, Appling leads the conference with four games of 20 points and seven assists. He is a Bob Cousy Award finalist, and was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, Naismith Award Midseason Top 30 and the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. The Big Ten leader with four games of 20 points and seven assists, he missed three games in February with a wrist injury.
Also receiving honorable mention All-Big Ten honors is Denzel Valentine, who is one of just two Spartans to play in every game this season. He has started in 26 games, including 23 straight. He is tied for fifth in the Big Ten in assists (3.9 apg) and is third with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Valentine is also tied for eighth in the conference in defensive rebounds with 4.7 per game.
Michigan State, the No. 3 seed in this week's Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, will play its first game of the tournament on Friday, March 14 at approximately 9 p.m. ET against the winner of Thursday's matchup between sixth-seeded Iowa and No. 11 seed Northwestern. The game will be televised on BTN.