There has been twice in my time closely watching MSU basketball recruiting that, by whatever means, I felt like I knew what was up. The first was during the recruitment of Adreian Payne and that worked out pretty well. The second was Jabari Parker.
I have been confident that Jabari would choose MSU for over a year now and that confidence reached a peak late this summer. I was already thinking about how he’d fit in at MSU and penciling him into our lineup. The first signs of trouble were the delays and unconventional conclusion to the Parkers’ process. Jabari didn’t come off like a young man fully sold on MSU or any school by skipping the early signing period. Then, the final days leading up to his announcement felt like a growing wave of justified Duke confidence.
This undoubtedly stings. Many of us had grown attached to the idea of Jabari in Green & White, entering the lineup to inherit the role Draymond Green played so well for Coach Izzo. He was in place to make a run at an MSU trinity of Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Mateen Cleaves, and Jabari Parker as the players instrumental in gaining the Spartans their three national championships. That is not going to happen now and it’s a shame for fans. I’ll take this like a rough football loss but it isn't the BTCG by a long shot and I’m a basketball-first guy. The reality is that Jabari was never a Spartan and we haven’t actually lost anything. Michigan State still is likely to return a loaded, experienced line-up in 2013-2014 and compete for a Big Ten championship. So join me in some good, clean venting and then let’s move on.
Our emotions are best spent raising a glass of commiseration to Coach Tom Izzo. He’s the one whose livelihood depends on getting players like Jabari Parker, who devoted so much time, so many resources, and made unknowable sacrifices to try and woo this standout from Chicago. Izzo recently affirmed that he had no regrets, he’d handled Jabari’s recruitment as well as he could, and even Parker’s own father confessed the Coach Izzo had watched his son play more than anyone, including himself. Listening to the final pitch, made after a week of practically living in Chicago, even Jabari's own HS coach was convinced by Izzo's case. There was nothing more he could have done.
Our coach often talks about Michigan State not yet being an unshakably "elite" program and we roll our eyes and say "sure, Coach…" Today is a day that might reinforce his perception. Despite the many advantages – proximity, MSU’s strong attention to Chicago, a need at power forward, a great example of how to make the most of Jabari’s skills, and a strong supporting cast in place to run at a title, Tom Izzo was unable to overcome the aura of Duke basketball and the persona of Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
That’s alright, you can win ‘em all and the story of Tom Izzo’s achievements at Michigan State is still being written as he climbs the win ladder of Big Ten coaches. We might have some surprises as the staff continues to look at options for 2013 including prep school standout Gavin Shilling who the coaches have considered. 2014 is still of vital recruiting importance and the upcoming new year will be a great opportunity to shift our (and the staff’s) focus as individuals like Tyus Jones, Cliff Alexander, Kevon Looney, and Jahlil Okafor become eligible to take official visits. Today isn't a big win but MSU is in the thick of all those recruitments.
Don’t forget, every day, even today, is a great day to be a Spartan!