In some ways, the high school basketball careers of Percy Gibson and LaDontae Henton have followed opposing trajectories. Based on his early development and physical dominance, Henton was discussed since his freshman year as one of the best players in his class and a possible MSU-caliber prospect. At the end of his high school career, he had matured into a scoring and rebounding force yet his height (6’5"?) and only developing wing game led him to be viewed as an outstanding prep player who might struggle to be more than an undersized forward in college. Percy Gibson didn’t carry as much early hype but finished his senior year playing the best basketball of his life and drawing some statements that MSU may have "missed" on him by filling up scholarships before he broke out.
Now, both have backed out of commitments to the University of Dayton after the departure of Brian Gregory and the big question is would MSU be interested in either one? As my link today already reveals, I’m pretty intrigued by how this plays out. The situation leads me to consider the pros and cons of each player joining the MSU roster. The buzz right now is centered on Percy Gibson with good reason but there’s a case to be made that Henton might even be more valuable.
More discussion after the jump.
First, if you’re anyone besides Tom Izzo, Percy Gibson appears to make more sense in fulfilling a need on the roster as a true power forward. It wouldn’t be immediate and, with the current post player depth, a first-year redshirt for Gibson might be a smart idea. However, if Adreian Payne doesn’t stay for four years, Gibson could come in handy for 2013. A Payne-less 2013-2014 roster is likely to be limited upfront to Alex Gauna (Rs Jr.), Matt Costello (So.), combo forward Kenny Kaminski (So.), and a true freshman (Jabari Parker, fingers crossed). Though it’s hard to recruit so far out for every possible scenario, adding Gibson there as a RS So. would give MSU a little more cushion and experience.
It should also be said that Gibson has come close to earning this offer on his own merits. His senior season was his best and he was generally regarded as the star of Detroit Southeastern’s run to the state finals. You can hit the MSU blogosphere and find plenty of opinions that Izzo would have offered if he’d anticipated Gibson’s continued development. After all, big men usually take more time to reach their potential than players who compete on the perimeter.
There’s also drawbacks. Like many otherwise effective high school post players, it isn’t clear Gibson has the size to compete with MSU’s level of competition. Though solidly built, estimates of his height range from a generous 6’9" to the 6’6" range. He also isn’t considered a highly athletic player who can compensate with hops and play above the rim. As much as Gibson has gotten better and demonstrated a strong work ethic, it’s an open question if he’ll reach a level of play that would make him an asset in keeping MSU at its current level of success.
As for LaDontae Henton, most observers don’t anticipate a role for him at MSU. It isn’t that MSU doesn’t know and appreciate the Lansing Eastern star. Tom Izzo made a reference to helping LaDontae find a home in Dayton during his signing day press conference last winter. The big mystery around his game is whether he can develop into a perimeter player who can excel away from the basket. His scoring and rebounding numbers were huge his final two seasons but, the better program he picks, the less likely he is to succeed playing as a 6’5"-ish post player. Though I think I anticipate the answer (Hint: it’s "No"), it’s worth asking whether Henton can continue to work at becoming a high D1 wing and fulfill Tom Izzo’s desire for another guard. One possible outcome is a player similar to Branden Dawson yet less skilled and athletic. Considering Dawson is already on the roster, what would LaDontae bring to table?
As followers of the blog know, I’m a big LaDontae Henton fan. It’s hard not to like a player who works hard, stuffs the boxscores, and plays with a physical presence. Though Gibson might make more sense, I’m tempted to advocate for the man they call "Buckets." If you can end up with another big, powerful hard-working wing player who can grab rebounds, it’s tough to pass that up. I think in thinner times adding Henton to the roster might have been an easy sell. In our current moment of recruit cup-runneth-overness, it’s harder to find the room. If Michigan State insists an adding another guard to the roster for next season, I say roll the dice that ‘Dontae can be that guy.
Of course, it’s possible if not probable that MSU passes on both. It’s unclear how filling Garrick Sherman’s spot in 2011 would influence room for Gary Harris in 2012. Many of us always suspected that Harris’ place would come from an unforeseen departure. That’s happened with Sherman leaving, but does Izzo know something else about another spot? Would there still be room? If you factor out Henton or Gibson's scholarship taking a spot from a 2012/2013 player, it’s tempting to suggest offering the better of the two uncommitted players. The reality is that recruits aren’t added in a vacuum and, despite each man’s attributes, I’m comfortable if Coach Izzo decides to stand pat as well.