Revisiting the 2011 MSU Basketball Recruiting Hotlist

Travis Trice - recruited from 0 to 60 in days, aka "the limitations of the Hotlist." (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tom Izzo and his staff receive great praise for bringing a wealth of talent into the MSU basketball program. At the same time, recruiting is just as much about the players who you don’t get and the players you evaluate but pass on. For every one player who puts on a Spartan jersey, there are countless prospects who coaches contacted but didn’t express enough interest in return, players who ultimately choose another school, and recruits who were candidates for an offer but never received one.

Today, I’m going to look back at the main recruiting targets for MSU in 2011, the first year I produced a Basketball Recruiting Hotlist for the site. The returns are very early and I don’t want to judge anyone solely based on freshman performance but one thing should jump out at you – many of the players who might have been nearly Spartans (Jeremiah Davis, Jakarr Sampson, Tommie McCune, Mike Shaw, etc.) either had limited impact in their freshman seasons or had major obstacles that directed them away from their school of choice. In choosing who not to hold an offer for in 2011, Coach Izzo and his staff apparently made some solid decisions. One notable exception on the list who didn’t underwhelm as a college freshman was LaDontae Henton of Providence. He never appeared close to an MSU offer based on his evaluation as an undersized power forward at 6’5"/6’6" and a less talented repeat of Branden Dawson. However, Henton averaged almost 15 points and 9 rebounds as a freshman, making his hometown of Lansing proud. That’s not to say that MSU should have offered Henton but he’s a player from the list who far exceeded expectations.

Looking back at other candidates makes me appreciate the 2011 class at MSU even more. If Patrick Lucas-Perry jumps on his early MSU offer, there likely isn’t room for Travis Trice. Branden Kearney was a pleasant surprise and ended up comparing admirably to Tommie McCune and Jakarr Sampson, his closest comparisons on the list, as well as the currently transferring Carlton Brundidge, who took what might have been Kearney’s place at Michigan. Coach Izzo rolled the dice that he could land Branden Dawson out of Gary and held back from pressing for other players who would fill that spot. The Spartans survived fine this season in not sticking it out until the end on bigs like Mike Shaw and Amir Williams. By avoiding a true post player, MSU set themselves up well for scooping up two quality forwards in 2012 .

No one bats 1.000 but perhaps my real motivation for this post is to re-iterate that old recruiting maxim – "Trust In Izzo."

Player by player recaps after the jump.

Position - Name - Hometown (School of Choice)

SG Dwaun Anderson – Suttons Bay, MI (Wagner)
Unfortunately, Dwaun never made it on the court for Michigan State. After winning the 2011 Mr. Basketball award in an upset, things looked bright for Anderson but it was announced at the end of last summer that he would not be enrolling at MSU. Eventually landing at Wagner, Dwaun cited the compact size of the school as one of its appeals. Instead of speculating on all the details, it’s fair to say that something outside of the spotlight of a power conference school was part of his plan as he turned down larger suitors such as Georgetown and Missouri. We continue to wish him the best and Dwaun should eligible to play for the Seahawks sometime next season.

G/F Wayne Blackshear – Chicago, IL (Louisville)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Wayne Blackshear 15 7.0 0.8 2.7 29.3 0.4 1.3 30.0 0.5 0.8 58.3 0.5 0.9 1.4 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.8 2.5

Though the recruitment never matured, Blackshear and MSU appeared to have mutual interest in one another before Blackshear choose to play with Louisville. There was little doubt that he was an MSU-caliber player. Recruited as another big, powerful wing like Branden Dawson, Blackshear was ranked as a five-star at various points in his high school career. Originally feared to have suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Blackshear made an impressive accelerated comeback but was still limited by having missed much of his freshman season. He’ll return next year with high expectations to help Louisville repeat their run to the Final Four.

PG/SG Jeremiah Davis – Muncie, Indiana (Cincinnati)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Jeremiah Davis III 27 7.9 1.0 2.4 39.4 0.4 1.1 38.7 0.1 0.3 44.4 0.2 0.7 0.9 0.5 0.6 0.5 0.0 0.7 2.5

Davis at one time was a prime 2011 target of both the Michigan State Spartans and Indiana Hoosiers. I can recall the early moments of that recruiting cycle when Hoosiers (pre-Zeller commitment) often spoke as though locking up Davis was a vital key to their basketball future. Jeremiah’s senior season became a struggle as he ended up playing at Huntington Prep instead of his home city of Muncie, IN and saw his stock drop off. Kept waiting for awhile, coaches' offers to play in both East Lansing and Bloomington disappeared as the schools moved on to other players and turned towards 2012 recruits (there was this kid named "Harris"). Davis had a few hot moments for the Bearcats and looked particularly good at the close of the non-conference season but he was out of the tightened playing rotation for the postseason.

C Percy Gibson – Detroit, MI (Iowa State)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Percy Gibson 29 10.7 2.0 3.1 65.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.3 56.8 0.7 1.3 2.0 0.1 0.4 0.2 0.5 1.2 4.8

Originally committed to Dayton, Gibson (along with LaDontae Henton) started looking elsewhere once Brian Gregory departed for Georgia Tech. He was a player who benefited from a very strong senior season capped by an impressive playoff performance. Following his senior year, Gibson picked the right moment to jump back onto the market. The days following his release from Dayton were strange where MSU was concerned. There was talk that MSU was supposed to watch Gibson work out, yet word that he didn’t show, and rumors of other mini-dramas. In the end, that last minute MSU offer never came through and Gibson headed to Iowa State and followed former recruiter at Dayton, assistant coach Cornell Mann. Gibson avoided a redshirt and put in a respectable freshman campaign, averaging double-digit minutes for the Cyclones off the bench.

F Anton Grady – Cleveland, Ohio (Cleveland State)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Anton Grady 33 21.2 3.4 6.4 53.3 0.1 0.3 20.0 1.7 2.7 62.9 1.9 4.5 6.4 1.0 1.5 0.9 1.4 3.0 8.5

Anton was another of the many wing forward/combo style players MSU took a look at in 2011 as they attempted to add a new player somewhere near the mold of Raymar Morgan. Grady had offers and interest from schools like Purdue, Michigan State, Xavier, and Dayton but wished to stick closer to his home of Cleveland. Grady thrived at the Horizon league level and was an immediate contributor. On Cleveland State’s path to league runner-up, Grady scored highs of 23 and 18 and played over 20 minutes in most contests. It’s hard to say what he might have done in our conference or the Atlantic 10 but Grady is a young star in the making for Cleveland State.

F LaDontae Henton – Lansing, MI (Providence)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - LaDontae Henton 32 37.2 5.3 11.6 45.4 1.4 3.5 39.3 2.4 3.4 70.6 2.8 5.8 8.6 1.1 1.7 1.0 1.1 2.4 14.3

Henton is the rockstar of this list. The man with a reputation for production as a high school player continued during his freshman campaign. He was a close third on the team in scoring and unsurprisingly the top rebounder. Henton also demonstrated the hard work he’d put into his skill game and hit almost 40% of his 3pt shots all while averaging 3.5 attempts a game, including going 5/10 from deep in a late season win over UConn. Given the presence of Brandon Dawson and the scarcity of scholarships, it’s hard to fault Izzo for not extending Henton an invitation but he looks like a player who could probably help any team in the country. LaDontae will be reinforced next season at Providence by a four-man recruiting class that is widely ranked in the Top 10.

F Paul Honigford – Sugar Creek, Ohio (D2 Ashland)
Honigford was identified early as quality forward prospect but his recruitment got stuck in an early gear. After lots of MAC interest and early attention from MSU, Paul found the right fit with Ashland, a quality D2 school where he could find the educational opportunities he was searching for. After a solid start, injuries slowed Honigford down and he watched Ashland's closing stretch from the bench.

PG Patrick Lucas-Perry – Flint, Michigan (Pennsylvania)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Patrick Lucas-Perry 11 2.5 0.2 0.5 40.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.5 0.4

This was one of the more interesting Michigan State recruitments in 2011. The word was that PLP was high on MSU’s list and he was one of the very first players offered as a rising junior when MSU let out a round of offers that summer. It looked like PLP was penciled in to be Coach Izzo’s next floor general. However, in the wild world of recruiting, the relationship soured as quickly as it had blossomed and MSU decided to go a different direction. Lucas-Perry was also hindered by an ACL injury suffered later in his career. After that, his recruitment stayed very focused with only a handful of local suitors and a few Ivys interested in the guard for the academic credentials that complimented his basketball prowess. PLP chose Penn over Oakland and had a very quiet freshman season where he played 28 total minutes.

F Tommie McCune –Saginaw, MI (West Virginia, transferring)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Tommie McCune 13 4.5 0.2 1.4 11.1 0.1 0.9 8.3 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.6 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.5 0.4

It seemed like on numerous occasions, Tommie McCune was a few good bounces away from an MSU offer. Multiple times during high school, it appeared MSU was watching this Saginaw product closely just waiting for that final incentive to pull the trigger and extend an offer McCune was likely to accept. Despite a few AAU explosions, McCune displayed his worst days at the worst moments and never caught the final favor of the MSU coaching staff. With good size on the wing, McCune was looked at as a great Midwest steal for West Virginia. It’s sad to report that it has not gone well for him away from home. He played sparingly as a freshman and was suspended twice by Bob Huggins during the season. After it was announced that he was leaving the West Virginia program after one year, McCune was arrested in Morgantown under allegations of using stolen debit cards.

F/C Trey McDonald – Battle Creek, MI (Ohio State)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Trey McDonald 13 2.9 0.1 0.5 16.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2

Trey never received an MSU offer and may end up looking like a reach for Ohio State. He only appeared in 13 games as a freshman and scored a single basket in a contest against Michigan. In the coaches' defense, Thad Matta accepted a commitment from McDonald before landing Amir Williams and still believing that Jared Sullinger was unlikely to play a sophomore season for Ohio State. Not to dwell on the negative, McDonald became the first player from his (and my) hometown of Battle Creek to represent in the Final Four and could work his way into the mix as a sophomore.

C Zach Price – Lakewood, OH (Louisville)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Zach Price 19 4.3 0.2 0.7 30.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.8 26.7 0.3 0.5 0.8 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.9 0.6

Originally out of the same high school as Delvon Roe before transferring to a Louisville institution, Price was a rare miss for Tom Izzo. MSU was firmly in the hunt for Price when he made an early commitment to Rick Pitino. Like many on this list, Price played sparingly as a freshman especially once the Big East conference schedule began. In interviews, Rick Pitino voiced hesitations about Price’s readiness to contribute despite crediting his hard work while sitting near the end of the bench.

PF Jalen Reynolds – Livonia, MI (Xavier - 2012)
Jalen blew up during the end of his junior season and become a hot commodity in Michigan recruiting circles. While his goal was to earn a Big Ten offer to stay in state with UM or MSU, neither of those offers materialized by the time he decided to go with his preferred offer from Xavier. Reynolds hit a detour on his path when he wasn’t able to qualify academically and had to go the prep route. Jalen found himself in the favor of glowing press while at Brewster Prep and had no trouble holding his own when matched against Michigan bound elite big Mitch McGary. Reynolds could step into the line-up for the Musketeers next season and make a major impact.

WF Jakarr Sampson –Akron, OH (St. John’s – 2012)
Jakarr had a long dance with Michigan State during his recruitment. Sampson came to East Lansing to workout in front of coaches and listed MSU as a team recruiting him with some attention. At times it wasn’t clear how serious the relationship was with MSU being in the forefront one month but then appearing to take a step back the next. In his best highlight films, Sampson was one of the most electrifying players on this list. He could play like a 6’8" guard, navigating fullcourt assaults and getting all the way to the rim in seconds. He was another player who hit an academic snag and was declared academically ineligible as a freshman heading to St. Johns. After looking at his other options following prep school, Sampson decided to head back to St. John’s next season where he should be a contender to start right away.

PF Mike Shaw – Chicago, IL (Illinois)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Mike Shaw 20 7.0 0.3 1.1 28.6 0.1 0.3 16.7 0.2 0.5 40.0 0.6 1.3 1.9 0.3 0.7 0.1 0.1 0.9 0.9

I looked back at my old notes about Mike Shaw and the consistent word was that this was a two-horse race between MSU and Illinois. However, by the end, he was picking between Marquette, Illinois, and DePaul. It appears Michigan State decided to go in a different direction in this case. There simply may not have been enough room for Shaw with Alex Gauna as a redshirt freshman, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix with eligibility remaining, and future post targets out there like Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello. Despite being one of the highest ranked recruits on the list, Shaw had a low impact freshman year. Bruce Weber tried to work Shaw into a regular role, playing him 15-20 minutes a game frequently at the season’s beginning. Shaw’s inability to produce as a consistent scoring threat sent him to the bench where remained for most of conference play.

C Amir Williams - Detroit, MI (Ohio State)

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Amir Williams 29 6.6 0.7 1.2 52.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.0 35.7 0.9 1.2 2.1 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.8 0.8 1.7


For the 2011 recruiting class, you could call Williams "Mr. Measurables." Williams was recruited for his 6’11’ stature and true-center frame. His performance and reputation were enough to secure him a spot on the 2011 McDonald’s All-American team. People who follow recruiting closer never felt that Michigan State was a likely destination for Williams or even a serious player in his recruitment. There were feelers sent out from both parties and flashes of activity but nothing serious ever took hold. When Amir committed to Ohio State he was picking them over Florida after eliminating teams like DePaul, Purdue, and Michigan. Unlike other players, Williams benefited from prolonging his recruitment down to the Early Period wire in November. It isn’t easy to find uncommitted four-star players close to seven feet tall. He played sparingly in the Big Ten but had a nice tournament game in the win over Syracuse when Ohio State found itself in foul trouble. With Jared Sullinger moving on to the NBA Draft, Williams is a candidate for big minutes next season.

My intention in this post wasn't to breakdown the inaugural campaign of the three true freshman who ended up starting college basketball careers at Michigan State but looking at them briefly is a good way to conclude. Here is a flash at their raw stats:

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Branden Dawson 31 20.6 3.5 6.1 57.7 0.0 0.1 0.0 1.3 2.2 59.4 2.2 2.3 4.5 0.9 1.4 0.9 0.8 1.3 8.4

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Brandan Kearney 34 9.6 0.5 1.1 47.2 0.1 0.4 38.5 0.1 0.2 28.6 0.3 0.6 0.8 0.6 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.8 1.2

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Travis Trice 32 17.2 1.5 3.9 38.1 0.9 2.3 40.5 0.6 1.0 57.6 0.2 1.6 1.8 1.8 1.2 0.8 0.1 1.8 4.5

Especially in light of some of the disappointments suffered by other players who might have been Spartans, fans have to be very happy with the student-athletes who ended up in the Green & White. Before being derailed by injuries, Travis Trice showed remarkable poise and skill all while becoming one of the team's most reliable shooters beyond the arc. There's no doubt that fighting through multiple Big Ten picks contributed to Trice's ailments and he'll need strength next season to continue to meet his potential. Brandan Kearney exceeded nearly everyone's expectations and stepped into the role many spotted for Dwaun Anderson. By the NCAA tournament, Kearney had established himself as a key bench player and multi-tooled wing. He also lived up to the promise of being a dependable 3rd string/contingency point guard. Branden Dawson was as explosive as advertised and had made strides on defense when his season was cut short by injury. If he comes back even close to 100% and continues to cultivate his wing skills, he's a future NBA player after MSU. The Michigan State coaching staff gets strong grades for 2011 recruiting - not only for the players they welcomed to East Lansing but for the tough decisions necessary to tell hopeful recruits "no."

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