EAST LANSING, Mich.–Earlier this summer, Michigan State Spartans guard Eron Harris made an incredibly poor, ill-advised, reckless–take your pick of synonyms–decision by operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
And at 1:55 a.m. July 1, he was pulled over and arrested for that choice. Following his cuffing, Harris was indefinitely suspended from all basketball-related activities by Spartans coach Tom Izzo. However, since the incident, Harris–a 6’3,” 175-pound junior–has done enough to earn a second chance.
His charges have been reduced to reckless driving, and he’s made an honest effort to make things right. Plus, he was thoroughly ribbed, ridiculed and embarrassed through social media.
Thoroughly barbed, actually.
And so were friends and family members.
That public blasting, among other things, may have slightly softened Izzo’s stance on the matter. The 21-year-veteran head coach could have dropped the hammer on Harris.
But instead, he followed his gut.
“I don’t know what proper punishment is anymore,” Izzo said Wednesday during a media-invite practice at the Breslin Center. “It’s…you know what? You’re going to have to rely on ‘I’m doing what I think is best under the circumstances that I’ve got to deal with.’ And truly what I believe, I’m going to make it as absolutely as miserable as possible on those two guys…”
Learning from the mistake is key for Harris, who’s yet to play a game for Michigan State. Alvin Ellis III, the other half of the “two guys,” was twice cited for alcohol-related incidents (MIP) during this past spring/summer. The 6’4,” 205-pound junior guard has been in and out of his coach’s good graces, but he’s far from a problem child.
That’s why Izzo allowed him to return.
“I can honestly tell you guys that neither guy has done anything in the past that would be even remotely (be considered close to what they had done),” Izzo said in a stern but forgiving tone. “I’m disappointed if a certain guy doesn’t get grades that I think he’s capable (of getting). If he’s underachieving, that’s disappointing to me. That doesn’t make a person a bad person.
That’s the first thing I want to make sure I get across to you–there is no… these are two good kids. One gets ‘it’ a little more than the other right now–the other is going to get ‘it,’ or he’s still not going to see a day of light here, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The Spartans leave Friday for a team trip to Italy, and in addition to playing “all-star teams,” they’ll take time to check out attractions and historical sites.
Harris, who transferred from West Virginia a year ago, will have plenty of time to see everything–twice, probably–because he’ll be riding the bench for at least four games during the excursion. Ellis is a full-go in terms of availability and but won’t play in the four scheduled contests from Aug. 21-Sept. 1.
Standing in front of glaring lights and nosy reporters, Harris discussed having to face Izzo, his team and his family after being arrested. He’s not proud of what he did July 1. Eliminating and/or curbing the consumption of alcohol is a goal for the soon-to-be 22-year-old.
“It’s been a little different. It’s definitely a situation, you know, that you don’t want to be in,” Harris said. “I made a mistake, a really stupid mistake. I apologized to my teammates for it. I apologized to my coach for it. And you know, I’m looking forward to getting better from it–getting better as a person from it.”
Being a “better person” includes preventing others from being “really stupid,” too.
“Even helping out other people who haven’t made that mistake, who, maybe are doing the same thing that I did, you know…” said Harris, who wants to “confidently” discourage people from repeating his error. “Maybe my situation can help a lot of different people out. But like I said, I’m looking forward to bettering myself and moving forward from it.”
Harris realizes that his position at Michigan State is far from guaranteed. Despite averaging 17.2 points per game as a sophomore at West Virginia, he can be replaced. He also realizes that he may not be as slick as he once thought.
And that’s a good thing.
“I’m thankful to still be here,” said Harris, who credited his staff and teammates for their support. “I learned that you think you’re getting away with something, and you’re not (while DWI).
Re-earning trust is important to Harris, who is well aware of his somewhat damaged reputation. It won’t happen overnight, but it’ll happen.
Give him a moment to regroup.
“Well, I think different people are going to perceive me in different ways,” Harris said. “I know that I have a good heart, and I know that I am remorseful about this. I think the only thing that’s going to change anyone’s perception of me is what I do from this point on–not so much what I say here. I know people are going to be looking at this, you know, and they’re going to judge me from it.
But like I said, it’s going to be what I do from this point on, and not what I say today. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81