(Big HT to Con-T for his help on this article.)
Years have passed since Michigan State basketball had a commitment come out of the blue, but I think it's fair to say that everyone was surprised with
Obie Travis Trice, AAU teammate of MSU commit Branden Dawson, pledging Michigan State yesterday. The 5'11", 160 lb. point guard from Dayton will take the final scholarship in the 2011 class, assuming no current players leave. Here's how the recruiting services rate Trice's skills:
RIVALS: No ranking
SCOUT: 2 stars
ESPN: Grade of 88, #55 PG
While those grades seem poor, Trice helped his stock immensely with a great July on the AAU circuit. In fact, he helped it so much that Butler, Dayton, and Minnesota all offered him in the past few days. Here's what Rivals's Brian Snow had to say about him at one tournament:
Dawson is the consistent for SYF, but Trice is the huge x-factor for them. In the semi-finals there is absolutely no way that SYF gets past King James if not for the play of Trice. He was making shots, getting to the rim, and setting up teammates very well. It was one of the best games that he played all summer. While offensively he did struggle in the championship game, Trice knew he had to step it up defensively and did. His play all tournament long was strong, and clearly he made a huge difference for SYF in clutch situations.
That gives me plenty of reason to believe that Trice will be no worse than a three-star recruit when the next rankings are released. His high school stats last year show him to be a scoring point with good hands: 22.1 points per game, 4.9 assists per game, 4.2 steals per game, and a 43% three-point percentage. While Michigan State will have both Korie Lucious and Keith Appling at the one when Trice enters in 2011, the Dayton Daily News reports that he likely will not redshirt:
The Trice family visited Michigan State on Tuesday. Wayne coach Travis Trice said Izzo told his son he expects him to play significantly as a freshman.
"I took it as hard work pays off and I’m a hard worker," Trice told the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. "Throughout the whole day I (thought) this is too good to be true. ... I got to spend time with the (players) and watched them work out. I was like ‘Man, I could see myself here.’ "
Trice's commitment could permit Appling to work more as a wing in the Spartan offense, so if Trice's going to get significant minutes as a freshman, that might be what happens. Izzo's seen him play enough with Dawson to make a good assessment, and, yes, the rankings are a bit low, but that will change quickly once those are updated. Izzo's seen Trice play enough times to think the guard can play in the Big Ten (a little bit of weight would help though), and that's good enough for me.
With the 2011 class secure, the focus shifts to the 2012 class. The conventional wisdom is that there's two scholarships for three players: Denzel Valentine, Gary Harris, and Matt Costello. The MSU legacy Valentine will likely take the first spot (barring a sudden commitment to Michigan). The biggest factor will then be if State wants a big or the best available player. If they want a big, it's Costello, if they want the best available, it's Harris. The final scholarship could take days or months to play out, but regardless, the Spartans are sitting pretty for the foreseeable future.
UPDATE: Bonus quote from Trice's father, Travis Trice I, via Rexrode:
"Tom told Travis, 'I saw you with my own eyes. I saw you being the best player on the floor in a lot of games,'" the elder Trice recalled of the conversation. "There's a comfort level when one of the best head coaches ever lays eyes on you for 22 games and decides there's a spot for you at Michigan State."
If you're still going OMG 2 STAR RECRUIT, please stop. Thank you.