EAST LANSING — Gary Harris is returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the school announced Thursday, leaving junior forward Adreian Payne as the last remaining question mark about next season's roster.

Harris, the Big Ten freshman of the year and top freshman scorer last season (13.7 points per game in Big Ten games), was projected as an NBA lottery pick by ESPN's Chad Ford from about midseason on. Harris said in a released statement that he looked into his stock. But the 6-4 guard, who had injury issues with both shoulders and his back last season, opted to return — and he will not need surgery on the left shoulder, which gave him the most problems.

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"When the season was done, coach (Tom) Izzo gathered a lot of great information and shared it with me and my family," Harris said in a statement. "After talking things over with my parents, it is my decision to remain at Michigan State. Playing in the NBA is definitely a goal of mine and something that I've always dreamed of, but those dreams can wait for another day. I think additional experience and maturity will be huge in my development as a player.

"I have other dreams of things I want to accomplish, both as a player and as a team at Michigan State. I love college life, and I'm no hurry to move on. My teammates and I are already excited thinking about next season. I've been doing a lot of rehab on my shoulder, and it feels stronger already. Last year was a good season for my teammates and me, but we can all improve this summer and come back for even greater things next year."

Payne is still undecided and has until April 28 to declare his intentions about the NBA draft. Assuming Harris and Payne return, several analysts rate MSU as a top-three team next season, and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected MSU as a No. 1 seed in a recent look at next season's bracket.

Harris' 12.9 overall scoring average was third all-time among MSU freshmen, trailing only Magic Johnson (17.0) and Shawn Respert (15.8). His return, along with Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine, gives MSU a talented, experienced backcourt in 2013-14.

Izzo said in a statement that he "spoke with many different general managers and teams" and praised the Harris family for "the way they handled this process."

"I have no doubt that Gary would have been a high pick had he entered the draft," Izzo said, "but I'm excited to have the opportunity to coach him next year. ... Gary had a phenomenal freshman season, but his future is even brighter. ... He's been committed to his rehab, and all indications are that he's making great progress. There's no question that a healthy Gary Harris is one of the premier guards in the country."


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