It's time to jump back on the wagon and talk about basketball recruiting. I'm going to focus on checking in with Michigan State's future prospects but I'll start with a few notes about our currently committed 2012 players. It wasn't a big surprise but Gary Harris was named a McDonald's All-American this month. He gave MSU their third straight class with a player so honored (2010 - Keith Appling, 2011- Branden Dawson).
Matt Costello did not receive a McD's spot but I'm confident that he'll surpass many of the players ranked ahead of him while at Michigan State. Outside of national acclaim, Matt has actively pursued the 2012 Mr. Basketball in Michigan and you can visit http://www.mattcostellomrbasketball2012.com to check him out.
Costello is primarily competing against future teammate Denzel Valentine for the Mr. Basketball award. A recent State news article on DV had some quality quotes focused on Denzel's desire to play with the ball in his hands.
Valentine doesn’t mind what role he is given as long as he can be handling the ball and setting his teammates up to do well. "(I just want to be) out on the perimeter handling the ball," Valentine said. "Anytime in college, just giving me the ball and setting my teammates up (to do well) is fine with me."
This is a reminder of the potential logjam next season at both the point position and on the wing. Many people have advocated for the idea that Valentine is a true point guard who belongs there to be effective, yet MSU returns Keith Appling and Travis Trice. You could move Appling or Valentine to the wing but the likely starters are Gary Harris and Branden Dawson. MSU also has the more effective than expected Brandan Kearney returning and what if Russell Byrd makes that famous freshman to sophomore leap? At the moment, this is an embarrassment of riches.
Kenny Kaminski's recovery from a shoulder injury has been solidly on schedule and he made a cameo appearance in the Medina Bee's Senior Night game. Considering Kaminski is a big strong player, his shoulder problem should not be as problematic as it was for Adreian Payne entering his freshman year and Kenny should be ready for action this fall.
We'll talk about the 2013, 2014, and a new 2015 name after the jump...
MSU’s targets for 2013 appears to remain very selective. Despite all the names on the 2013 Hotlist, only Jabari Parker has an offer and the staff’s full attention. Others are either waiting for an offer or apparently not getting what you’d call the "full press."
SF/PF Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL)
The word-of-mouth vibe has become that Jabari Parker’s recruitment might be shorter and more narrowed than originally suspected when the word was that he would take five fall officials accompanied by in-homes. First, Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye suggested that Parker might not use all five and could decide in October. More recently, Kyle Randle of Scout stated that Jabari might be ready to take his officials this spring. That would be a major surprise as most officials occur in the fall leading up to a decision. That was the story with big-time MSU recruits like Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, and many others. It’s hard to say what these pieces of information might mean but I still feel great about MSU’s chances with this rare basketball talent. We might know sooner than expected.
SF James Young (Troy, MI)
Rumors flew that MSU was backing way off of James Young after his disastrous Christmas performance in front of Coach Izzo. That appears to have been premature. MSU coaches are still visiting and watching Young. As I noted a few weeks ago, Young played a monster game against a talented Clarkston team with Dane Fife there. Young’s offers are limited which suggests the MSU is far from the only team who wishes to see more of him before extending a scholarship. Trust in Izzo on this one.
PG Demetrius Jackson (Mishawaka, IN)
Jackson is a bit of the forgotten man in the 2013 class. After saying he’d commit to someone over the holidays then a sudden reversal, it’s possible that things aren’t exactly as they seem with his recruitment. He’s still very close to the coaches and program at Notre Dame and that appears his mostly likely destination. Still, you can’t dismiss MSU’s interest. Coach Izzo showed up in person to watch Jackson at the end of last month.
MSU is closely pursuing more high school sophomores than juniors right now. MSU has a core group of SF/PF Jabari Parker, PF Cliff Alexander, C Jahlil Okafor, PG Tyus Jones, PG/SG Jaquan Lyle, and SG Drake Harris as their primary targets for what will probably be a two to four player class.
PG Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN)
Dave Telep over at ESPN broke the news that Duke has offered Tyus Jones. You might have a similar reaction as I did and say, "he didn’t have one already?" I don’t think this changes much. Jones is a major Duke target and this was to be expected. For MSU, pursuing Tyus Jones could be the first recruitment where Izzo’s expanded resources make a big difference. Despite being 700 miles away, Izzo has been to watch Tyus numerous times this season, even bringing his family along for the trip to Apple Valley, MN. It’s too early to handicap but Izzo has earned my benefit of the doubt when he’s all-in for a recruit as he is with Jones. Jones is widely considered the top point guard in his class.
PF Abdul-Malik Abu (Meridan, NH)
As reported by SpartanTailgate ($), Abu received an offer from MSU through his AAU coach. He plays for Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire and is described either as a combo forward or undersized four man. Originally from Massachusetts, he reclassified from 2013 to 2014. This offer doesn’t sound like MSU’s typical MO and with players like Parker, Young, and Drake Harris still available, I don’t expect Abu to become a Spartan soon. Right now, this is in the "one to watch" category.
PF Cliff Alexander (Chicago, IL)
Coach Izzo made it out of state this week to watch Jabari Parker and 2014 post player Cliff Alexander play in the state tournament. Alexander is one of MSU’s primary recruiting targets and the interest is mutual as MSU is Alexander’s publicly stated leader. Of all the players we’re talking about, he might be the most likely to choose MSU. Alexander is still considered a defensive player first but has been an important scorer in Currie’s run through the playoffs. They have an epic match-up tonight when they face off against Parker’s Simeon team to avenge their only loss of the year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see MSU representatives back to take in the game.
C Karl Towns Jr (Metuchen, NJ)
When you’re a 6-10 freshman, people start noticing early. Though I don’t typically get either analytically or ethically excited about discussing freshman prospects, it’s worth noting this little nugget in a recent article about Towns, Jr.
"Know when I realized my son was good?" Karl Sr. said. "When colleges started visiting him (this year). When Tom Izzo came in. When Cincinnati flew in. When Kentucky showed interest. When Syracuse came in and visited. Villanova was in the house. When I saw all them cats in the gym, Jay Wright and everybody asking about him, I said these coaches are coming out to recruit a freshman.
It’s always nice to hear our coach as the first person someone mentions. Though this is outside the Midwest, it wasn’t long ago that MSU was in the thick of recruiting Dexter Strickland out of New Jersey. Way early, but we know that Coach Izzo has already been in to express interest in Towns, Jr. This whole article is good and worth a read as an introduction to this young man.
I don't think we're going to get a commitment from anyone anytime soon but these things can drop out of the sky at times. For me, the main storylines to watch going forward are this:
1. How quickly can MSU finalize the deal and wrap up a commitment from Cliff Alexander?
2. What will we continue to learn about Jabari Parker's process and timetable?
3. What is standing between James Young and a Michigan State offer?
4. Not much "news" on him but another good question is whether Drake Harris is a football player or basketball player first or a true two-sport college athlete? How will prioritizing these two influence his options of Michigan and Michigan State?
Here's to a big commitment this weekend that makes much of this obsolete!