Michigan guard Manny Harris comes back stronger after suspension
“He’s definitely starting to speak more,” Sims said. “Life lessons. You live and you learn.”
Harris declined to detail what led to his weekend suspension after the Michigan basketball team's heart-breaking 57-56 loss to rival Michigan State, when Sims missed a tip-in on an in-bounds lob with 1.5 seconds to play.
Michigan has lost three straight games to fall to 10-10 and won’t make the NCAA tournament unless it wins the Big Ten tournament in March, but Harris insisted his practice transgression has made him a better player.
He spoke Tuesday of "doing anything for the team" and admitted he needs to be a better leader.
“Sometimes you take two steps backward, sometimes you take two steps forward,” Harris said. “It’s just something that you try to continue to get better. But I am getting better at it.”
Harris didn’t start Tuesday for the first time since the seventh grade. He stripped off his warm-up shirt at the 16:49 mark, waded onto the court cautiously after two Zack Novak free throws, and eventually caught fire in the second half when Michigan needed him most.
Michigan coach John Beilein said Harris’ benching wasn’t an extension of the suspension that kept him home Saturday when the Wolverines lost to Purdue.
“It was not a penalty,” Beilein said. “It was let’s get him coming off the bench and go in and just be Manny in there. But I expect he’ll be back in the starting lineup” this weekend against Iowa.
That’s a hard-to-swallow explanation considering this was Michigan’s biggest game of the year and it wasn’t the first time Harris ran afoul of Beilein.
Last year, Beilein benched his best player was for the entire overtime of a 70-60 loss to Iowa. Afterward, Beilein said Harris sat because he didn’t look fresh.
Four nights later, the message clear, Harris responded with one of his best games of the season, a 27-point, eight-rebound effort in an upset of Purdue that helped Michigan reach the NCAA tournament.
He wasn’t quite as dominant Tuesday, but his 16 points, five assists and five steals were almost enough to lead Michigan to the win.
“We still got to believe and still got to work hard and continue to get better cause anytime you can make a run,” Harris said. “Nothing’s impossible. It’s still a possibility we can reach where we’re trying to reach.”
Pipe dream or not, Harris re-emergence Tuesday is a swatch of hope Michigan can cling to for the final two months of what’s been an otherwise disappointing season.
A motivated Harris at least makes Michigan bearable to watch down the stretch, and no doubt he'll be on his best behavior if for no other reason than to assure NBA scouts he’s not a locker-room cancer.
“What he needs to do right now is just continue to work his game and get better and better,” Beilein said. “He’s a marked man and he’s got to do that. It’s tougher than people think. When you go out there it’s easy for some guys to come to practice and work hard and they’re complimentary players. When everybody’s focused on you and so many things, there’s more pressure than people think. He’s just got to continue to work at getting better and concentrate on that. And he will. He will.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.