MSU Basketball Recruiting Round-Up (1/31/13)

USA TODAY Sports

The MSU staff is still scouting and recruiting prospects now that the high school season is in full swing. The big news is an in-person visit by Coach Izzo to Chicago guard Tyler Ulis, an undersized but talented junior. MSU is still looking to add at least one more player to next year's 2013 class.

After some good conversation on twitter, I nearly wrote a post breaking down each thing that went wrong in recruiting the 2013 class, all dozen or so of them. Instead, I’ll just say thanks for waiting until Christmas, BK. It wasn’t like Coach Izzo might have offered Sterling Brown, Demetrius Jackson, Monte Morris, Wes Clark, E.C. Matthews or any of the numerous players who could have provided future backcourt depth.

The future! Hey, how about it? Here’s the lead story:

Coach Izzo was out in person to watch rising Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis. He’s a new(ish) name in the class of 2014 and this is another sign that Michigan State isn’t putting all their eggs in one basket again. Ulis is a very effective junior scorer at this level with offers from DePaul, Iowa, and others but that could continue to expand with more strong performances. The big question mark with Ulis is size. He’s currently listed as 5’8" and it’s unlikely he’ll get anywhere near six feet tall. Ulis also has connections that could help Michigan State get involved. He’s Southfield born and a cousin of former MSU captain Travis Walton.

What does this say about MSU and Tyus Jones? I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that Izzo has written off Tyus. He and his family were just in Minnesota to see Jones play and MSU continues to recruit him. The odds are still very good that MSU will get one of Jones’ five official visits. That said, Izzo is not going to focus solely on one or even two or three players in ’14 when he may have anywhere from four to six scholarships available. There is definitely reason to think that MSU could finish runner-up to Duke for the elite point guard but I’ll say this again: My strong hunch is that MSU was in even better shape this time last year with Jabari Parker than Duke is with Tyus Jones right now. Time and officials visits can have an impact. We’ll have to wait and see.

2013

SpartanTailgate had a recent article ($) on Oak Hill prep guard R.J. Curington. Curington is right now the only major target for MSU to play the perimeter next season. At 6’5" and 170 with an effective outside shot, he could be a serviceable replacement for Brandan Kearney to help with perimeter depth. The word is that the staff wants to see more of Curington but could be strongly considering an offer.

Michigan State’s other major 2013 recruit is Gavin Schilling, a big man with Chicago roots who plays in Las Vegas. It looks like MSU is all-in and has offered Schilling. There’s no new developments here but he’s probably the most likely senior on the list to become a Spartan. I expect MSU to continue to pursue him aggressively unless something changes.

Leaving no stone unturned, Michigan State has also been back in to watch James Kelly at Owen Community College. Bringing in a community college player next year would be an uncharacteristic move and hasn’t worked out phenomenally well for MSU in the past (think Rashi Johnson). Kelly probably won’t receive strong consideration until Schilling is off the board. You can read more about him in a recent article here.

There was some question about Jonathan Williams III after it was revealed that his future coach at Missouri Frank Haith was part of an NCAA ethics investigation for "unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" while at Miami. When Williams was asked whether this might compromise his signing with the Tigers, he offered "No comment." Since then, the NCAA has become the subject of their own ethics controversy for their handling of the case. If something does come out that drastically wounds Haith at Missouri and Williams seeks to be released from his LOI, MSU could decide to get back involved. They’ve showed a reluctance to do that in the past but Williams is worth some sympathy if he was hesitant about entering in the same class as the then at-large Jabari Parker.

2014

The net continues to widen for MSU’s recruitment of junior According to Evan Daniels, Michigan State has picked up interest in Louisville, Kentucky guard D’angelo Russell. Russell is another big-timer, a consensus five-star, and is ranked by many as one of the top two shooting guards in his class. "Interest" can mean a lot things so it’s unclear how serious MSU is yet. They’d be battling regional heavy hitters like Louisville, Indiana, and Kentucky who are already involved. After venturing down to Memphis to recruit Jonathan Williams, there isn’t any doubt that MSU feels like the near South is within their recruiting range.

The junior class isn’t looked at as being overally strong in the state of Michigan. One of the top ballers is Drake Harris but he seems ready to commit to football full-time while in college and possibly not even at MSU. I always viewed that switch as likely and thought of Harris on the MSU basketball roster as written in faded pencil. Still, with no one else committed and MSU already out one prospective senior for that year, it was nice to know Drake was there and interested. His rival for the position appears to be A.J. Turner of De La Salle. Turner actually scored 35 when matched up against Harris last month. He doesn’t have a ton of publicity right now but he’s got the attention of both in-state powers and took in the UM-Northwestern game last night. The reason for the profile is his excellent size (6’6"/6’7") coupled with a true perimeter game. Coach Izzo appears committed to regional big fish but this is another name to keep an eye on.

Michigan State’s other targets have looked good. Cliff Alexander has put together a string of impressive performance and continues to display a more complete game including going for around 20 and 20 this week against St. Rita. After all the noise about Kentucky and MSU, he appears to be lying low with his recruitment until after the season. He did (again) have great things to say about MSU when playing in Grand Rapids.

Kevin Looney was big for his excellent Milwaukee Hamilton team and scored 34 against Milwaukee Madison. Duke is among the schools picking up interest.

If you enjoy looking further ahead, scope this Mlive article from Michigan hoops aficionado Steve Bell. He has rankings for the 2013 through 2016 classes.

That's all for now. Characteristically, it's been a little quiet as players concentrate on their seasons and get ready for AAU. Most of the movement is from the coach's side, such as Izzo's recent offer to Saginaw Arthur Hill sophomore star Eric Davis. If MSU could get in good position with Davis and Lansing Sexton's Trevor Manuel, they might grab the 2015 class's top in-state players. Recruiting regionally is important but it'd be nice to see the Spartans take advantage of local talent.

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