Junior Manny Harris announced yesterday morning that he will not be returning to Michigan for his senior season.

At a press conference, Harris said that it has always been his dream to play basketball professionally, and he felt now was the right time to pursue that dream. He will enter his name into the 2010 NBA Draft.

“I’ve thought long and hard about this very difficult decision,” Harris said. “This was just something that I always dreamed of (doing). It just felt like it was the right time to do it.”

Harris is projected by DraftExpress as a late-second-round pick. Despite averaging 17 points and nearly six rebounds per game for his career, scouts say his body is not NBA-ready and his long-range shooting is questionable.

“I heard a lot of different things (about my chances in the Draft), but I believe the work you put in is the work you get out,” Harris said. “I’m just going to keep working.”

The option exists for Harris to work out for NBA teams and hear what professional scouts have to say about him, which is permissable under NCAA rules, if Harris doesn’t hire an agent.

But Harris said this morning that he intends to hire an agent. When asked if there was any chance Harris would come back to Michigan, he said no. Harris plans to work out with DeShawn Sims, an outgoing senior and close friend, in the coming weeks to prepare for the Draft.

“Like so many guys coming out, whether they come out after four years, three years, two years, (Harris) realizes there are difficult challenges ahead of him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He wants to tackle those challenges, and we have nothing to do but support him on that.”

Harris said he would play in Europe or in the NBA D-League if those were his only options in the immediate future.

“If that came up, and it’s like I had to do it, then definitely, because I love playing basketball,” Harris said. “Whatever route I have to take to get there, that’s my final destination, is to be in the NBA, whatever route it is.”

Reporters asked Beilein, who sat next to Harris throughout the press conference, what he thought the team would be like next year without Harris. Beilein mentioned that it will be the combination of losing him and Sims that will change the make-up of the Wolverines.

“It’s not just Manny, it’s DeShawn (too),” Beilein said. “You take two guys who have taken the majority of shots over two years, three years. It will be difficult. As you coach long enough, you find these situations, and you find ways to make it work.”

Harris and Sims have been Michigan’s two leading scorers for the past three years, and the two dominant players opposing defenses worried about.

Harris attended Redford High School in Detroit, where he was a two-time All-State first team selection and was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball as a senior in 2007. Harris was recruited by former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, but he ended up playing all three seasons as a Wolverine under Beilein, after Amaker was fired

Harris was a prolific scorer this year, averaging just over 18 points per game, but ran into problems off the court when he was suspended by Beilein for a game for “unsportsmanlike conduct” in practice at the end of January. Harris said after the suspension that he had “learned a great deal from this situation” and he didn’t “ever want to have it happen again.” Harris said today that his relationship with Beilein was fine.

“We leave on a great standing,” Harris said. “Coach Beilein’s a great coach, and he just did so much for me as a player, on and off the court. A lot of people looking from the outside would probably not know, but we definitely had a great relationship, and any player on any team, for a coach and a player that both want to win the game, sometimes you butt heads.

“We did a couple times during the season, but there were way more goods than bad.”

When asked if Michigan’s disappointing season was a factor in Harris’s decision, he quickly dismissed the idea, saying that it actually made it more difficult for him to leave because he wanted to go out on a higher note.

But when push came to shove, his interest in a chance to play professional basketball outweighed his desire to play another season at the collegiate level.

“It’s always your dream, you always think about it,” Harris said. “While being at Michigan, I played for Michigan, I love being here at Michigan, but you always think about playing for the NBA.”

Harris said he plans on eventually earning his bachelor’s degree from the University.

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