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Sandburg's Malek Harris is ranked No. 6 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2014 in Illinois. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

A long and bumpy road looks to be ending joyously for Malek Harris, a road that will now lead the Sandburg senior to Manhattan, Kansas. 

Harris, who opened the door for a handful of high-major programs to recruit him this spring, is headed to Kansas State, officially announcing his decision Sunday afternoon at his church in front of family and friends.

“I am just so excited to be heading to Kansas State,” says Harris. “I went about it [recruiting process] a little differently this time around and evaluated things differently. I learned a lot through this entire process.”

Harris, the City/Suburban Hoops Report's No. 6 ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2014, had committed to Marquette and coach Buzz Williams one year ago. But when Williams left to take the Virginia Tech job in March, Harris decided to open his recruitment back up. 

“From the moment they started recruiting me again they provided me with facts and details in showing how I fit,” says Harris of Kansas State’s recruiting approach. “I didn’t go strictly off relationships this time. I loved Marquette. I never regretted it [committing]. But I did base that decision on things I didn’t make as high of a priority this time around. I wanted to know, ‘Would I fit perfectly into the situation I would be going into?’”

Harris stated the fact he’s going to play for an established coach in Bruce Weber, a program that has been winning and one that has talented young players, including freshman star Marcus Foster, along with an opportunity to play early in his career, as additional selling points. 

“I want to win,” says Harris. “That’s what I play for –– to win. I want to be the player that makes plays to help a team win. I have a chance to do that at Kansas State. I get to go play for a great coach in coach Weber and a really good young team that’s ready to win now. I trust the coaching staff will be there to help me grow as a player and person.”

While heading to Kansas State this June has Harris excited, the versatile, multi-faceted 6-7 forward is energized by the fact he’s that much closer to be playing again. He’s played this spring for his club program, the Illinois Wolves, on the AAU circuit, but Harris missed his entire senior season at Sandburg after being removed from the basketball team for disciplinary reasons.

“I missed out on a lot,” says Harris. “I missed out on what potentially could have been a great high school season, and I can’t even describe to you now what it was like to miss out on that. But there were consequences to my actions, and I suffered because of it.”

When talking with Harris there were no excuses even mentioned in regard to his turbulent senior year. He wanted to talk about it, was mature in welcoming the discussion, sounding conscience-stricken while also relieved, almost appreciative, by how it all helped shape his life –– even as devastating of a year as it was for him. 

Harris says he now understands things more clearly and knows he’s a completely different person than he was nine months ago. He looks and approaches areas of his life differently.

“If I didn’t feel different about myself, if I didn’t feel better as a person, more positive than I was feeling, then there is no way I would be going to college,” says Harris. “I have no shame in admitting I made my fair share of mistakes. I would never say I’m glad any of it happened, but I’ve grown so much because of this. It woke me up, made me realize things and what I could potentially be throwing away. It’s made me change in many different ways. I learned more about being a man.”

Harris says there were plenty of people who probably gave up on him, who did turn their back on him because of his mistakes. But he also learned who would be there for him through some troubling times. 

“I just appreciate the people, the family and friends, that really stood by me,” says Harris. “I thank my mother, I thank [Illinois Wolves] coach Mullins for all he’s done for me, my true friends. I know there were a lot of doubters, but I thank the people that stood by me.”

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