March 11, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Gary Harris became the first Spartan to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and four Spartans overall earned All-Big Ten honors, the conference office announced Monday, March 11.
Harris was selected the league's freshman of the year and was also named to the All-Big Ten second team and All-Freshman team by both the coaches and media.
Both voting panels also placed junior forward Adreian Payne on the second team, while junior guard Keith Appling was chosen on the second team by the coaches and third team by the media. Senior center Derrick Nix garnered honorable mention by the coaches.
"I think it's great that we had three guys on the All-Big Ten second team," said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. "Adreian Payne, maybe he came on as well as anybody at the end, Keith had the great beginning, and Gary might have been the most consistent. Adreian had such a great end, with a little more in the middle (of the season), I think he maybe would've been a first-teamer. And I think Derrick Nix has been one of the more solid guys. It's been a team effort and a balanced attack."
Harris ranks second on the Spartans and leads Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 13.2 points per contest, which is also tied for 16th in the conference. He is one of eight finalists, and the only Big Ten finalist, for the 2013 Integris Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award, presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
The Fishers, Ind., native leads MSU in 3-pointers made (57) and attempted (136), and his 3-point percentage (.419) ranks fifth in the Big Ten. Harris also ranks 10th in the league in steals (1.4 pg).
Harris led conference freshmen and averaged a team-best 13.7 ppg in Big Ten play. He also led Big Ten freshmen in 3-point percentage in conference games at .472 (42-of-89), ranking second among all players, and 3-point field goals made (2.3), which ranked tied for fifth among all players. Defensively, he led Big Ten freshmen with 1.6 steals per game, ranking fourth among all players. Following a week in which he averaged 15.5 points, including 17 against No. 4 Michigan, he earned his third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor on Feb. 18, having also been honored on Nov. 19 and Dec. 10.
"It's the first freshman we've had as (Big Ten) Freshman of the Year," Izzo said. "I think it's a great honor for Gary and a great honor for Michigan State University and our basketball program. I also think he's very well deserving of it. He's a guy that plays on both ends of the court and that kind of separates him from some of the other real good freshmen, which there are a lot of in the league this year."
Harris is on his way to turning in one of the best freshman campaigns in Michigan State history. His 13.2 ppg overall scoring average ranks third in school history behind just Earvin Johnson (17.0) and Shawn Respert (15.8). With 57 made three-pointers he also ranks third, trailing Chris Hill (66) and Shawn Respert (60), while ranking tied for second with 136 3-point attempts. He also ranks among the top five in 3-point field-goal percentage (fifth, .419) and steals (tied for third, 41). Harris opened his Spartan career by becoming just the third freshman in MSU history to score in double figures in each of his first three games.
Harris is the sixth Spartan to garner All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors (Shannon Brown, 2004; Drew Neitzel, 2005; Raymar Morgan, 2007; Delvon Roe, 2010; Branden Dawson, 2012). Harris is also the first Spartan freshman to be named to the first, second, or third All-Big Ten team since Shawn Respert earned third-team accolades in 1992.
Payne leads the team in rebounding (7.5 rpg) and ranks third in scoring (10.1 ppg), both of which represent career highs. He also leads the team in field-goal percentage (.566), free-throw percentage (.812), blocks (36) and double-doubles (6). In addition, Payne has made 44.8 percent (13-of-29) of his 3-point attempts.
The Dayton, Ohio, native has proven all season to be one of the league's premier big men, as he ranks among the Big Ten leaders in field-goal percentage (tied for third at .566), rebounding (fourth at 7.5 rpg), free-throw percentage (fifth at .812) and blocked shots (10th at 1.2 bpg). He scored a career-high 20 points at Penn State on Jan. 16 and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds at Ohio State on Feb. 24.
For Payne, who was also selected as Michigan State's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, this marks the first All-Big Ten honors of his career.
Appling, who was named a captain on Jan. 20, leads the Spartans in scoring (13.5 ppg) and assists (3.7 apg), numbers which rank 13th and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively. He has led MSU in scoring a team-best 15 times, and has scored 20 or more points in four games, all coming in Spartan wins. Following his 24-point, 8-rebound, 7-assist game against Illinois, he was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Feb. 4.
On Feb. 7, Appling made the cut to one of 12 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, honoring the nation's top point guard. Appling is one of three Big Ten point guards on the list as he is joined by Michigan's Trey Burke and Ohio State's Aaron Craft. In conference games, Appling ranks seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5), tied for seventh in assists (3.4 apg), and tied for ninth in steals (1.3 spg).
Appling was a third-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media last season.
Nix saved his best season for last, having registered career-bests thus far in scoring (9.3 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg), free-throw percentage (.730), assists (48) and steals (31). He ranks second on the team and 10th in the Big Ten in rebounds, and also ranks third on the team and eighth in the league with his .502 field-goal percentage. Nix, who ranks third on the team in assists, has been especially effective lately, totaling 35 assists in the last 14 games, including collecting a career-best six assists twice (at Indiana on Jan. 27; vs. Northwestern on March 10).
The Detroit, Mich., product has shown great improvement throughout his career, as he averaged just 2.3 points and 2.1 boards as a freshman. He's also shown dramatic improvement at the foul line, shooting .730 this season, after having shot just .271 as a freshman.
Nix grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in his Spartan debut three seasons ago, but did not record double figures in rebounds again until the 2012-13 season opener when he collected 11 boards against Connecticut. He has six double-figure rebounding games this season, and has recorded three double-doubles. They were his first double-doubles since his Spartan debut. Following a career-high 25-point, 11-rebound effort against Texas, he was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 24.
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 15 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.