Cliff Alexander 2014 Chicago Curie at the Spring Showdown (via PrepHoopsTV)
Last week began the live evaluation period when Tom Izzo and staff could hit the AAU circuit to see and be seen. This is the first of three periods for the month and important times for recruiting and making a big impression. Unfortunately, Cliff Alexander’s summer AAU playing appears to already be over. The word around twitter was that Alexander either suffered a severe sprain or even a fractured ankle over the weekend. Though the injury is an unfortunate bump in the road, it shouldn’t shake his recruiting much. Alexander has only risen in the rankings, now appearing regularly as a Top 5 player. He has little left to prove in order to gain more offers. From an MSU perspective, Alexander’s removal from the playing group, along with an injured Jabari Parker out for July, will give MSU coaches more time to see other players and scout other prospects.
More after the jump...
Scouting younger players was definitely on the Michigan State agenda over the weekend. Coach Izzo was at the Adidas Invitational in-person to watch Hyron Edwards out of East Chicago, Indiana. Edwards is a highly regarded 2015 point guard with lots of high-major attention. Dane Fife also worked the central Indiana beat at the same tournament ultimately won by 2015 guard Eron Gordon and his famous brother's "Eric Gordon All-Stars." Indiana must have the inside track for Eron but MSU is keeping on eye on him as well.
Michigan State also watched an exciting 2014 player we haven’t talked much about on TOC, and who MSU coaches are watching is always a great tell about recruiting priorities. The G&W went out to see Kevon Looney, a highly regarded 2014 wing, who has been getting more and more attention despite a prestigious national rank. SLAM recently did a feature on Looney and you can get to know him better by giving it a look. As we talked about earlier, there’s numerous reasons to believe that getting Drake Harris out of Grand Rapids Christian has not shut the door on a second wing in 2014. Looney would fit in well at Michigan State to give the Spartans another big wing to play the ‘3’ in the recent tradition of Branden Dawson and Raymar Morgan.
Demetrius Jackson received lots of good press on twitter for his weekend play including high praise from Brian Snow of Scout.
The show Demetrius Jackson is putting on right now is absolutely ridiculous. Never seen him play this well— Brian Snow (@BSnowScout) July 15, 2012
One could dismiss this as overblown hype but Jackson's play translated into serious attention from high major programs. He testified on his own twitter to receiving new offers from Kansas, Louisville, and Memphis. For the longest time, his recruitment has been considered a two-horse race with Notre Dame and MSU but the picture appears more complicated now. How serious is MSU about Jackson? Is he a Plan B to Tyus Jones or has he earned the staff's full attention by looking dynamite this summer? If Jackson plans on a fall commitment/signing, we might get a clearer picture when he begins talking about official visits.
We have to talk about James Young. Young had a monster weekend and was named the MVP the Nike Global Challenge. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports offered this recap that was consistent with most reactions to his performance:
A 6-foot-6 left-hander, Young proved himself an athletic slasher that could really shoot the ball from beyond the arc. But through three games at Nike’s Global Challenge, Young had struggled for the USA’s Midwest team. He was averaging 15.0 points, but shooting just 42% from the floor and 2-17 from three while committing 13 turnovers. The Midwest went 3-0 in pool play, but it wasn’t the result of a sterling performance from Young.That changed in the title game, however.
Young finished with 29 points — including a flurry that saw him score 16 points in a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter — on 12-23 shooting (5-10 from three) to lead the Midwest to a 100-86 win over Andrew Wiggins and Team Canada.For observers (ahem, like me) that were questioning how a gunner that couldn’t shoot was so highly-regarded, Young did a fine job providing an answer. Everyone is allowed a couple off-nights in a row, and a glimpse of the kind of show that he can put on when he gets it going was enough to earn American MVP honors.
Over the same weekend, some tweets came out that weren’t exactly encouraging for MSU fans.
James Young wants to visit UK, KU, MSU, OSU, Arizona, Mizzou & Syracuse. Plans on committing after he takes those visits.— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunilNRS) July 15, 2012
James Young: "I don't have a list. It's just Kentucky and then everyone else. Hopefully by the end of August I'll make my decision."— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunilNRS) July 15, 2012
Ouch! I had a few thoughts in reaction to that. If Young is serious about visiting seven schools in six weeks, he will have to move fast traveling across the country. Visiting a smaller number might ultimately make more sense and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few on that list get dropped from consideration for a visit.
Also, if Young is seriously considering going anywhere besides Kentucky, he’s setting himself up for an awkward explanation. Any of those coaches would take him regardless but what explanation would he offer? “Oh, I really loved Kentucky more than any other school but the food in Columbus is so good I had to commit! Have you been to the German Autobahn buffet?”
Why all the talk and no commitment? For a guy who sounds sign, sealed, and delivered to UK, something is giving Young pause. Does his family insist on him taking some other looks? Is there still hesitation from Kentucky? It sometimes sounds like Young is campaigning for them as much as they’re trying to impress him. He may simply want to maximize the recruiting process even if he knows where he's headed. That's not uncommon either.
These unanswered questions add to the intrigue. It looks like Coach Izzo has a serious uphill battle to land a commitment from Young. However, we would count MSU out completely at our peril. Izzo’s recent track record on getting his man is excellent and Young is a local player with some friendly partisans pulling for the in-state power. Even if a player is leaning hard towards another program, schools want that last chance official visit to change minds. There’s no one I’d trust more to do something with a glimmer of hope than Coach Izzo and staff. He's a great recruiter of families and if the suggestions are true that some people close to James Young would like him to play closer to home, there might be an opening for MSU to make up ground.
We'll check back in after the next evaluation period which opens on Wednesday afternoon and lasts through Sunday. It should generate more buzz about which playing are standing out and who MSU is watching.