Michigan State normally has its upcoming freshman class set by the time of the Final Four. Perhaps there is one straggler target like Jamil Wilson or a newly available prospect like Alvin Ellis III. However, it's rare to have a March where we're seriously talking about at least three players as potential future Spartans. Kansas combo forward Marvin Clark, big-time guard Montaque Gill-Caesar, and late rising post Yante Maten of Bloomfield Hills are all in the mix for MSU right now. One of my favorite elements of recruiting is the scenarios, offer chess matches, and roster possibilities. With lots of ambiguity as to how Coach Izzo might play the endgame and how these players would fit, the home stretch of recruiting 2014 is packed with some intrigue.
To start, we can talk about the recent news on Montaque Gill-Caesar. It also makes sense to begin with "Teki" because as a Top 25 scoring wing, he probably has a clear invitation to join the Spartans whether he does so next season or in 2015, as is his current option. As more of guard-style wing, he would also be an important fit for replacing Gary Harris and any other departing wings. SpartanTailgate broke some information earlier this month suggesting that MSU is in excellent shape to add him for next season. However, the recent word is he intends to play AAU ball this summer which is a bit eccentric for someone planning on playing college hoops in 2014 and already carrying a strong offer sheet. He may simply enjoy playing basketball with his team but he doesn't have much to gain by another round of summer travel ball. In addition, it sounds like Kentucky will be back in contention if Gill-Caesar decides to delay his entry into college another year. It's probably too early to pencil him in for MSU yet.
After this, it gets even more unclear. Michigan State has been recruiting Marvin Clark for some time now. It appears they first started giving him a look based on his association with incoming point guard Lourawls Nairn. At the time, many people, myself included, thought this might be out of courtesy to their signee and due diligence by the staff. However, Clark received an offer and took an official to East Lansing at the beginning of the month. The original plan had Clark making a public announcement shortly after squeezing in a last visit to Bloomington but he decided to stall for a few more weeks. Now, the plan is to make a public verbal on March 24, next Monday. It's possible that the delay is just a desire for more time and clarity from Team Clark but there could also be some gamesmanship with the schools. Are either Indiana or Michigan State, his likely destinations, pushing hard for Clark to decide ASAP or are they content to wait and let some more chips fall?
Lastly, there is our most recent hot name. It seems like post players take time to develop and put their game together so there always ends up being a guy we're suddenly talking about late in the process. This year's prospect is Yante Maten, a 6'8" forward from right here in Michigan. He has really exploded lately and just had a reputation making game against Warren Holt last weekend where he pushed towards a quadruple double. He did this all in front of Indiana head coach Tom Crean and might be preparing for a Hoosier offer. The Michigan State staff has been watching him closely but hasn't pulled the trigger yet.
So, how to figure this? It seems very hard to imagine Michigan State filling scholarships and adding three more players to the 2014 class. That would max the roster even factoring in the loss of four players from this year's team. It would also reduce flexibility for finishing the 2015 class. Let's assume Gill-Caesar's spot is a given; what about Clark and Maten? At first glance, their games are distinctly different. Clark doesn't strike me as a classic athletic MSU wing and it's not likely that we can get lucky with too many 6'6"/6'7" power forwards. Where does he play? It's possible that Izzo is in love with some aspect of his game, character, or versatility and imagines big things for Clark. If Clark commits and grabs a spot, does that end things for Michigan State and Maten? Maten appears to be more of a traditional power forward and might do more to fill a need at MSU next season, especially if Alex Gauna moves on early. There's something about his surge under the hot lights of the state tournament that feels like a phenomenon MSU might want to grab a hold of. At the same time, it's easy to get fixated on a shiny object and try to outsmart the coaches who scout these players as part of their livelihood.
The next domino will be the decision of Marvin Clark. If he commits to MSU, I'd imagine Tom Crean and Indiana will move quickly on guys like Yante Maten and their other target Josh Cunningham. If Clark makes another choice, MSU could make a move or may be prepared to stick in a holding pattern.
In the meantime, check out the videos below and weigh in on our "Final Three."
Montaque Gill-Caesar is Canada's NEXT big name - Huntington Prep Basketball (via CityLeagueHoopsTV)
Montaque Gill Caesar More Than A Mixtape (via CLHTV2)
Marvin Clark underrated Class of 2014 Prospect with offers from Oklahoma, Oregon and Iowa (via CityLeagueHoopsTV3)
Yante Maten 2014 Bloomfield Hills vs Hyde Park at the Roundball Classic (via PrepHoopsTV)
Yante Maten 2014 Bloomfield Hills Blackhawks highlights vs Lathrup (via PrepHoopsTV)