It's time to take another look at how Michigan State's current committed players and targets have been fairing over the recent weeks of the high school season.
I want to start by giving some focus to Travis Trice. It's been well-documented that his profile was the lowest of all the 2011 signees but his early season has established Travis as someone who can show up to MSU and help. Travis's Wayne High School team rose to 7-1 with a 69-55 win over Centerville. He's averaging right around 25 points a game and his team has found ways to win whether he posts big numbers or is forced to get others involved. Wayne has an imposing game coming up tonight against the Whitney Young squad from Chicago who feature two young standout post players on the MSU radar, Jahlil Okafor (2014) and Tommy Hamilton (2013). This game closes out the Good Samaritan Flyin' to the Hoop event in Dayton which brings in some top teams from the Midwest to compete against one another. Flyin' to the Hoop is a virtual who's who of MSU targets with Simeon (Jabari Paker), the aforementioned Whitney Young, Perspectives, Wayne (Trice), Hamilton SE (Gary Harris), and Garfield Heights (Tony Farmer) all representing.
More after the jump...
Speaking of Mr. Gary Harris - the man Tom Izzo and Tom Crean are locked in battle for the services of - he still remains uncommitted. Despite (wishful?) rumors that he'd commit to Indiana by Christmas and some fan's continued claims that his verbal to IU is a "formality," it looks like his recruitment could continue for some time. He got great reviews for his play at Flyin to the Hoop and Rival's Eric Bossi had this to say:
"A big-time athlete, Harris is a tough wing who was an all-state performer as a wide receiver during the fall. He handles the ball very well, creates driving lanes to the rim with regularity and has to be respected as a jump shooter. He gives tremendous effort on both ends of the floor and is blossoming since bursting onto the scene last year.
It's important to remember that Harris is young for his class and closer in age to the 2013 recruits. The fact that he's a Top 25 prospect and still improving rapidly is what has Izzo, Crean, Pitino, and others giving him major attention. In an interesting recruiting note, Evan Daniels of Scout tweeted that he expects Kentucky to increase their involvement. FWIW, he also said that he felt MSU and Louisville were at the top. Doesn't sound like this is close to wrapping up at all. If you'd like to see Gary in conversation without really learning much more about his recruitment, here's a recent Courier-Journal video interview from Dayton. This sick photo of him about to throw down a dunk was passed around twitter.
Matt Costello bounced back after being held out of Bay City Western's big game against Saginaw Arthur Hill. In the prior game against Dow he was implicated as part of a double flagrant foul which necessitated one game suspensions for both he and Dow's Ethan Kok. One positive spin is that, if you have to err on the side of someone who plays with a little too much intensity or a player who floats passionlessly through the game, you definitely pick the former. His next two games were standouts. He blasted past his 15 ppg average to put up 24 pts and 15 boards against Midland and then got really serious on Friday night with 34 and 16 in beating over-matched Mt. Pleasant. That's solid, solid production out of a junior big man in any league even if you can't take all HS stats at face value.
Kenny Kaminski scooped up a double-double (19-10) over the weekend during a 53-42 victorious contest over Elyria. His coach offered up this assessment:
"Everything we're going to try to do we'll try to do through [Kaminski]," Medina coach Jody Peters said. "He's very versatile. Obviously we have to have other guys step up and play. We had to work tonight. I commend Elyria. They are a team that's going to have to be reckoned with in our league. They made us play."
One of the things MSU will be looking for is that versatility Coach Peters talks about. Kaminski will benefit MSU most as a Raymar Morgan-style combo forward who can play inside or outside depending on where he's needed. His ability to stretch defenses with excellent outside shooting is a major plus. The Medina Bees pushed their record to 6-1 on Sunday with another win and a 17-8 performance from KK.
The beginning of the season here in Michigan has been part of watching all the 2013 talent shake-out. This process is far from over but certain players have been excelling in an attempt to make their case. Derrick Walton, PG for Harper Woods Chandler Park, caught the attention of Steve Bell who gave him this write-up talking about him potentially as a Top 100 national recruit:
A lot of people have heard of Walton, but do they all know just how good he is? Like top 100 nationally good, and one of the big three 2013 point guards in Michigan along with Flint Beecher's Monte Morris and Lansing Eastern's Cha Cha Tucker. He has a couple gears, looks to pass first but can create scores with the jumper or drive when Chandler Park needs a score, and communicates both verbally and non-verbally. Against West Bloomfield, Chandler scored 24 and against Detroit Community 28 (in between it was 29 points on Detroit Osborn at Cass Tech). In the two games at Country Day he shot 13-of-23 from the floor (3-of-6 three-pointers), 23-of-28 from the line (lots of and-ones) with 13 assists. Not least of all, CPA won both games.
Bonus: This is pretty dated but if you haven't seen it, Reggie Rankin's scouting of Derrick Walton is here.
Bell mentions two other renowned PGs and their competition going all the way into the summer will be something to watch. Since that article, Walton went for 19 against Chandler Park Catholic Central to extend this team's record to 9-1. Cha Cha Tucker has been solid too. With LaDontae Henton on the team and Steve Haney Jr. becoming eligible soon, he won't need to be a primary scorer. Still, he contributed 13 points and 9 assists in a win against Jackson. Monte Morris has been on the winning side repeatedly. Flint Beecher is 7-1 and they can flat-out score, leading to some solid (inflated?) numbers for the sophomore. He had a double-double of 17 points and 11 assists in a 43-point win over Montrose, His consistent 20-10 type performances are keeping him in the forefront of the best 2013 point guard conversation.
Not to be left out of the conversation, Denzel Watts came through with important plays for Carman-Ainsworth. He scored four points in the final minute and a half in the game against Flushing to play a central role in the 50-47 victory. He also chipped in 12 during a 67-38 blowout of Bridgeport on Tuesday.
Checking in on the other 2013 big names in Michigan, Dowagiac's Dontel Highsmith put in 20 in a win over Vicksburg. That was their second straight victory after a three-game losing streak. Highsmith has missed some of those games to nurse a knee injury suffered over summer AAU.
In actual "recruiting" news, it looks like MSU is still staying close to Jabari Parker. He attended the MSU @ NW game and because he's unlikely to pick the Wildcats over his other suitors, many people assumed he was there to visit the Spartans as much as the home team. The Simeon juggarnaught that Branden Dawson knows so well continued to roll with an 87-35(!) victory Gage Park and Parker got a Day Day-esque performance of 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Parker has a rougher game last Tuesday, fouling out against Brooks High School. Still, Simeon continued to play unbeaten basketball to advance their record to 12-0. Jabari was also a Flyin to the Hoop attendee and made major noise as his stats and output were the focus of various tweets. He led all scorers with 20 in the victory over Dunbar.
The recruiting content-machine over at UMhoops has some new interviews including one with Steve Haney Jr where he discusses where his recruitment is at. He casually mentions visiting MSU and says he'll come for "a couple more of those." That relationship is definitely strong. Also, for those of you still interested, there's a piece with Jordan Hare as well but I'm betting heavily against him in G&W.
Brandan Kearney participated in much hyped battle as part of the Horatio Williams’ MLK Freedom Classic over the weekend. Kearney's Detroit SE squad was pitted against Detroit Country Day. The big match-up was an improved Percy Gibson (Dayton verbal) vs. Amir Williams (OSU verbal). Those two battled to a draw but DCD got the win. Kearney was faced with heavy defensive attention and struggled to score putting up 10 points on 3-15 shooting. If you want a deeper, editorial report on the game, LifeInLansing blogger St8izGr8 has a full take over there. On Kearney, he said:
Not his best night. BK had 10 points and struggled with his shot most of the evening. DCD had two good defenders in Kenny Knight and Adam Zavadil who were each long and athletic enough to give Brandan some trouble. To his credit, he remained aggressive throughout, showing progress in that area from previous years. He just wasn't able to rise up and make the plays the Jungaleers needed from him at winning time. You did see the usual nice passing game from BK as well, as he made plays for teammates on several occasions by drawing attention in the lane and finding shooters for buckets. Still a lot of work to do before he can be assured of making an impact as a freshman, but the mindset is no longer an issue in my mind, and that's important.
As St8 astutely notes, that last part, the mindset, approach, and aggressiveness, is huge for BK.
Including suffering a loss to Kearney's Detroit Southeastern squad (full video at LifeInLansing), Branden Dawson and Lew Wallace have had an up-and-down season. Dawson missed a game last week for reasons coach Renaldo Thomas would not comment upon. This came just after a big week in which he was named Indiana Paces D1 POTW and MVP of the Gary Holiday Tournament. He returned to be part of a comeback victory for the struggling Lew Wallace unit (now 5-7). The 81-78 win over Soldan St. Louis was a stage for Dawson's ability and importance to Lew Wallace. He had ridiculously do-it-all numbers of 31 pts, 11 rebounds, five steals, five assists, and five blocks. Also, In a stat that MSU fans will find exciting, Dawson nailed 17 of 20 free throws. Lastly, Branden received the personal honor of being officially named a McDonald's All-American nominee.
Caveat: Perceptive readers and link clickers will notice that if you follow the two accounts of Dawson's game against Soldan, one credits him for 11 rebounds and the other for 17 - a huge accounting disparity. That's why all the box scores I reference in a post like this should be taken with a big grain of salt. At best, they're guides for how a player is doing but seldom definitive.
I'll check back into this post this week and include any good links on the last day of Flyin' to the Hoop, including Travis Trice against Whitney Young.