Players come and go in college. We take great pride in calling certain players "ours" and then maybe we find even greater glee in the fact they represent "us" at the next level.
That might best describe how both Michigan and Michigan State basketball fans feel on this Tuesday.
I suppose it was inevitable that the two programs lose their best players to the NBA. Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris are two of the best shooting guards in the country, and neither has anything more to prove they are ready for the next level.
It would be selfish for UM fans to ask Stauskas to return with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary to make a run at a national title, much like North Carolina did in 2009. After all, Stauskas led his team to its first outright conference title in 28 years, went 7-2 on the road in the Big Ten (the best since 1992), beat every school in the conference for the first time since 1992 and never lost back-to-back games. The sophomore from Mississauga was named B1G Player of the Year and second team All-American. He became just the eighth player ever at UM to reach 1,000 points by his second season, and has the most triples ever by a UM player in his first two years at the school. He dedicated himself in the off-season and honed his game that allowed him to lead his team in assists. He has nothing more to prove at the collegiate level.
Harris joined Stauskas on the All-Big Ten first team. He was sixth in the league in scoring and MSU’s most consistent performer. He also led the team, and was fourth in the league, in steals, which landed him on the first team All-Defensive squad. His shooting and three-point shooting declined slightly from his freshman season, but his free throw attempts, assists and rebounding were much higher. He surpassed the 1,000 point mark during his sophomore campaign, becoming just the fourth Spartan to ever reach that goal in two seasons.
Both should be top 15 draft picks, and both should make an impact at the next level. They can create their own shot and can flat out stroke it from anywhere on the floor.
No matter where they play or how they perform, Stauskas and Harris brought pride, consistency and entertainment to their respective schools. Though it was for just a brief two years, we were fortunate to watch both evolve and grow their game into NBA-caliber. They will wear a new uniform in a new city next year, but to us they will always be a Wolverine and a Spartan.
I just wish, selfishly, both would stay one more year.