Mr. Basketball glory doesn't lead to selfishness. Not for Gary Harris. He gets to wear Indiana All-Star uniform No. 1 while facing a traditional Kentucky rival. He's part of state basketball lore. He's one of the biggest sports celebrities in a state loaded with them.
Still, everything else takes second to these priorities:
1) Sweep the weekend.
2) Enjoy the moment.
“Being Mr. Basketball is a great honor,” Harris says. “I'm just out here trying to do whatever I can to help the team win and continue to beat Kentucky.”
Harris and the rest of the Indiana All-Stars will get their Kentucky-beating chance tonight at Louisville's Freedom Hall, and again Saturday night at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Indiana girls All-Stars, which includes Miss Basketball Jessica Rupright of Norwell, Akilah Sims of Snider and coach Scott Kreiger of Canterbury, also plays tonight and Saturday.
Harris tops an Indiana roster as talented as any in state history. Eight of the 13 players have committed to high-major programs -– Michigan State (Harris), Indiana (Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson and Jeremy Hollowell), Purdue (Ronnie Johnson), Michigan (Glenn Robinson III), Iowa (Patrick Ingram) and Notre Dame (Austin Burgett). Two others are going to in-state powers Butler (Kellen Dunham) and Evansville (D.J. Balentine).
“Anybody can get hot at any time,” Harris says. “Sometimes it's me. Sometimes it's Yogi or Ron or Jeremy or Glenn or anybody. It's 1 through 13. You just feed the hot hand.”
Indiana is favored to continue its Kentucky dominance (six straight victories in the series, wins in 25 of the last 28 meetings) while going up-tempo in ways head coach Craig Teagle never gets to do while running the Jay County High School program.
“This is fun,” Harris says. “Whenever you have this much talent on the court at the same time, you can't help but have fun.”
Fun is everywhere you look when everything you do seems bigger than life. Harris scores at will; he throws in half-court, last-second postseason shots to beat powerhouse teams; he's good enough in football to have gotten a full ride to an elite program of his choice if that was his calling.
Instead, he chose basketball, because, he says, “I've been around it my whole life. I love all aspects of it.”
Love got Harris a Spartan scholarship. After a fierce recruiting battle that included Purdue, Indiana and Kentucky, he went with coach Tom Izzo.
Yes, that bothered in-state fans, but Harris rose above it. He went on to have a stellar senior season for Hamilton Southeastern (25.4-point scoring average) and beat out two-time state champ Yogi Ferrell of Indianapolis Park Tudor for Mr. Basketball honors.
Harris, who will report to Michigan State on June 27, is working to get better. The focus, he says, is on everything.
“Just my all-around game. I've got to get ready for the college level.”
Readiness this weekend includes being a facilitator as well as a scorer. Harris averaged 15.5 points and 3.0 assists in two wins over the Junior All-Stars this week. The fact they've had less than a week together, Harris adds, isn't a big deal because they've either played with or against each other so much in high school and travel ball.
“We're all familiar with each other's games,” Harris says. “We know what we can and can't do. We're all close on and off the court, so it's easy when we play together.”
Harris can dominate when he chooses. On Wednesday night at Pendleton Heights High School he opened the game with two three-pointers, plus an assist to Nick Osborne on another three-pointer for a 9-0 Senior All-Stars lead they never lost.
He'll assert himself when necessary, but that's not the point.
“We don't want to be the team that lost to Kentucky,” he says. “We want to keep the streak going.”