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June 7, 2011

Harris has options; Purdue a 'factor'

WASHINGTON, Ind. - Gary Harris the basketball recruit has generated enough buzz, for good reason, as the Hamilton Southeastern star is the most coveted player in Indiana and one of the most sought-after nationally.

But there's been very little talk of Gary Harris the football recruit.

The explosively athletic 6-foot-4, nearly 200-pound shooting guard was one of Indiana's top wide receivers as a junior, leading the Royals with 54 catches for 860 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Following Monday night's Indiana junior all-star exhibition in Washington, Ind., Harris listed football scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Iowa, Purdue, Indiana and Kentucky, a list that stacks up favorably to the caliber of schools courting him for basketball.

Though he's been immersed in the college basketball recruiting process for years now, the elite guard prospect isn't ruling out the gridiron quite yet.

"I'm keeping my options open," Harris said. "I'm not going to burn any bridges, so I'm keeping my options open right now."

He can, however, just about rule out the prospect of playing both in college, which is extremely difficult given the overlap of seasons, for one thing.

"Boy," Harris joked, "that'd be hard."

One thing that has defined Harris' approach to recruiting has been diligence, not only on his part, but his family's as well.

"It's obviously been fun having a son getting recruiting for both football and basketball," said Gary Harris Sr., his father. "But at the same time it's been a little overwhelming in making sure we take the time to evaluate both football and basketball programs and come to a consensus in terms of what makes the most sense for everybody involved."

Assuming, though, that Harris opts for basketball in college, his ultimate decision may be just as difficult.

As an elite athlete and scorer equipped with a college-ready body, defensive-minded demeanor and distinctly complete game, Harris is a hot commodity, after averaging 18-and-a-half points, about five rebounds, three assists and 2.7 steals as a junior.

Ranked 26th nationally in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, Harris has drawn numerous attractive scholarship offers from around the Midwest throughout the process to date. Among them: Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Xavier and Ohio State.

Purdue, the alma mater of both Gary Sr. and mother Joy, a former All-American for the Boilermaker women's basketball program, has been an interesting player for Harris, due to the family's connections to West Lafayette.

Given that the Boilermaker program wasn't as active early on in recruiting Harris, it's widely been perceived to be a non-factor for the legacy.

But after aggressively recruiting Harris for the better part of the past year or so, Purdue has seemingly pulled into contention for the blue-chipper.

"They're definitely a factor," Harris Sr. said. "It's a long recruiting process and Purdue's done an excellent job. Coach (Matt) Painter's done an excellent job and Coach (Jack Owens) has done an excellent job. (Harrris has) been there a couple times (for unofficial visits). It's definitely fair to say Purdue's a player in this decision."

Harris unofficially visited Purdue during the season for its Big Ten championship banner-raising opener vs. Howard and its win over No. 2 Ohio State.

Harris' parents' long-standing ties to Purdue are a dynamic that may or may not matter in the final analysis.

"It does and it doesn't," Harris Sr. said. "We want him to have the freedom and flexibility to not feel pressured by the fact we went to Purdue. And obviously (Joy's) shoes are some pretty big shoes to fill.

"But at the same time, we've all seen what the program has done and it's only an hour or so from our house, and those are things that definitely have made Purdue a real factor."

Ronnie Johnson's commitment hasn't hurt, either.

Harris and Johnson go way back to grade school and have played together often since.

"He played on my AAU team our eighth grade year," Johnson said. "We were pretty good. We're good friends."

Johnson's not the only one associated with Purdue that hopes that relationship extends to the college level.

"He's good," Johnson said. "We'd be really good together."


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