MSU Basketball Recruiting Round-Up (2/12/14)

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of news this week for MSU's pursuit of future players, headlined by a rise in conversation about Chicago forward Josh Cunningham and some attention to dual-sport athletes.

Last week, speculation went around that Josh Cunningham, a Chicago forward who MSU is very familiar with from watching the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team, might be in line for a Michigan State offer as one of the top unsigned forwards in the class of 2014.  A strong senior season led to a recent offer from Indiana and that is exactly the type of next-level offer Cunningham was likely hoping to land by not selecting a school during the early signing period.  Since then, it's fair to say that Indiana is a major player in this one.  Cunningham's head coach at Morgan Park recently told Rivals that MSU may only need to see Cunningham once more in order to pull the trigger on an offer of their own.

This is an interesting one and MSU has watched Cunningham for a long time. Tom Izzo’s decision on whether to extend a full invitation was a popular "will he or won’t he" subject in the fall of last year. There’s even been some speculation that Cunningham is the one courting MSU and that this might be the offer that he’s really after. The big question about Cunningham is where you slot him. With good size at 6’7" and some athleticism, he’s definitely attractive as a big, rebounding D1 wing though he’d probably play a good deal of post depending on his program of choice. For MSU, one question is whether you’d want Cunningham and Teki Gill-Caesar, an elite wing guard at Huntington Prep high on the Spartans. MSU has room for both and they could be complimentary. Taking each of them would load MSU up with wings and allow them to continue to focus on recruiting post players in the 2015 and 2016 classes.

Followers of recruiting were watching the decision of Minnesota guard Rashad Vaughn who picked UNLV this week. The question has been whether missing on Vaughn will result in Kentucky turning up the heat in their pursuit of Montaque "Teki" Gill-Caesar. Coach Cal was at Huntington just last week so UK is serious and could put in a strong challenge to MSU. We’ll probably know a lot more about this one after the basketball season ends and Gill-Caesar decides on a visit schedule.

MSU is recruiting multiple players for both football and basketball, however it seems like the majority of these players pick one or the other. In the case where the player is a good basketball player but great football prospect, they normally become full-time gridiron guys. MSU has recruited Jackson’s Khari Willis as both an athlete in football and PG in basketball. He’s likely a strong football-first guy where his stock is higher but the word is that Willis is an MSU lean and, one type of uniform or two, a likely Spartan.

A newer recruiting target is Brandon Childress, who plays both guard and QB out of Baldwin, Michigan. Living outside of the media hotbeds, Childress doesn’t have the name recognition of Khari Willis but he has the potential to be an equally strong recruit for both sports. Without ideal wing size and lacking true PG skills, Childress might have some work to do to become a Big Ten level basketball recruit but he has legitimate attention from schools for both sports and is one to watch. He should also be on the list of attendees for a big recruiting weekend (mostly for football) coming up when MSU plays Nebraska.

You can get an introduction to Childress on the basketball court in this amateur video:

Brandon Childress - 2015 G (Baldwin, MI) Early Season Basketball Highlights (via Andrea-Ira Childress)

Michigan State is putting some time in on Wisconsin big man Henry Ellenson. Coach Fife took in one of his games last week and MSU coaches have been a consistent presence in Rice Lake. Ellenson also was an attendee for Wisconsin’s narrow victory over Michigan State last weekend. It’s possible that Ellenson watched the two teams in the forefront to land his commitment.

Moving on to 2016, recent visitor to East Lansing Jayson Tatum picked up an offer from Duke confirming that MSU will be up against the absolute best programs in college basketball if they continue to pursue this player from St. Louis. Going mostly irrational, this doesn’t "feel" like an MSU recruitment but we’ll have to watch to see if Michigan State decides to put continued energy into recruiting Tatum.

Keep an eye on Austin Davis of Onsted, who Steve Bell ranks as one of the top four 2016 players in the state after the better known trio of Josh Jackson, Cassius Winston, and Algevon Eichelberger. Davis has true post size and could continue to get better as he develops. With MSU strong after Caleb Swanigan, it’s unlikely that they’d be in the thick of things recruiting Davis but that could change over the next year. Digging for more material on him, I do have this brief report from one of Bell’s BankHoops articles:

Austin Davis  6-10  So  Onsted
Knows how to play, cashing in on a season of 17U experience with the Southern Michigan Lightning. Legit post at 6-9, 235. Did a good job of establishing deep post position. May have to improve athletically, but has size and feel for the game going for him. Could be the top prospect for the 5 spot in the soph class.

"Methodical, but got the job done," a coach said. "He'd go right to the block and put work in."

"Plays big!," said another. A true post with a nice game with his back to the basket. Had the best "seal" of any big man at the camp and maybe in the state for that matter. He sits down in the paint with a wide base and offers a big target with hands always up calling for the ball. Could really cause problems in a 4-out-1-in set if you aren't going to bring help. Finishes with both hands around the hoop. Rebounds very strong on both ends. Needs to develop his mid-post game for when he faces defenders that he can't simply overpower. Loved his motor, he played hard all day long."

That's the word for now.  Michigan State football has a big recruiting weekend up ahead and is welcoming Brandon Childress and possibly other two-sport recruits so we'll be watching for some inter-sport synergy in action as both programs build for the future.

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