This is the final piece of our three-part coverage of the opening of the Moneyball Pro-Am and it focuses on my quick talks with Michigan State's backcourt freshman duo. The 2012 MSU guard class features a national five-star recruit from Indiana in Gary Harris and local Lansing star Denzel Valentine, who almost got away to our rival, Michigan. Denzel was the big hit and, though I’ll try to avoid hyperbole, it’s safe to say that I imagine he'll work his way into the playing rotation as a true freshman.
Despite MSU having more quality guards than the Louvre, Gary Harris may leapfrog them all and start on the wing at the season’s launch. His game was more subtle over the weekend but his athleticism, body control, and skill with the ball were undeniable. What remains to be seen is whether he becomes only a solid component of the offensive attack or an immediate star and focal point.
Practices are fresh and neither player seemed to be too concerned or pre-occupied with the details of their freshman campaign. What Valentine and Harris both mentioned without much prompting is the sort of effort and intensity Coach Izzo expects. It’s clear that regardless of the position or play, being a Michigan State basketball player starts with a relentless approach to the game.
Transcripts after the jump…
What’s it like playing this event with your brother on the same team?
"Oh, it’s real fun. I haven’t played with him in an actual game since freshman year so to go out here and play with him and my future teammates is a real good honor. And then, I’ve been coming to this game since I was in 8th grade. To finally be here is exciting."
Did you expect that you’d be playing at Moneyball one day?
"Yeah, I always thought about that. 'I can’t wait to get out there and play.' Now it’s here. It’s exciting."
Did you have the option of playing against your brother?
"Naw, I wanted to play with him for the last time. "
You’re known for passing ability, getting your teammates involved, and people make comparisons to MSU greats like Day Day who was just here. What do you think about when you hear those comparisons?
"You just have to a lot of stuff to live up to, being mentioned with those great players. It’s a great accomplishment so I’ve got to come out there and prove it."
You’ve probably talked a lot already with your MSU coaches. What have they talked to you about for your role at MSU?
"Just coming out there giving it my all every time I go on the court. No specific positions or plays but whatever they put me at just going out and ball, basically. "
Do you have a preference playing wing or point guard with the ball in your hands?
"Yep, I’d like to have the ball in my hands as much as possible. But I haven’t been there, this is my first year, so if I don’t get that enough, I have to adjust my game to wherever they put me at because you know I want to play. Whatever they put me at is what I want to do."
You recently got here to East Lansing. What’s it like being on campus and getting ready so far?
"I’m excited to finally be up here ready to work and work towards the season."
How is the experience so far at Moneyball?
"It’s good. A lot of good guys up here, get a good run in with some other MSU guys, play against some MSU guys. I’m having fun. "
What’s it’s like getting used to playing with the other freshmen up here?
"It’s fun. We’re all getting pretty close since we’re all in the dorms together. We pretty much do everything together. So, we’re building a good relationship with each other. "
Being a McDonald’s All-American, people have big expectations. How do you deal with that pressure?
"I don’t put pressure on myself. I’m just out here doing what I can to help my team win."
So what are we going to see when you finally take the court for your first game?
"I’m going to be working hard. I can’t specially say but I’m going to be out there working hard."