Maurice Ager's 36-point performance, which included a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the game to overtime, against Gonzaga in the 2005 Maui Invitational was more than just one of the most memorable individual performances in recent Michigan State history. It also was a pretty good recruiting tool.
2011 Michigan State recruit Brandan Kearney, then just 12-years-old, could see himself as a Spartan after watching that game.
"When Mo Ager played against Gonzaga that one year with Adam Morrison, that’s when I really got into Michigan State," Kearney said. "I really wanted them to recruit me once I got to that stage."
Even with Kearney's interest in the MSU program, it was no guarantee he'd end up a Spartan. He grew up a Michigan football fan, and with good reason: his cousin is Braylon Edwards, a former Michigan standout and current NFL receiver with the New York Jets.
"Actually, Braylon texted me this morning saying he wished he could’ve been there (at the signing day ceremony)," Kearney said. "As far as the recruiting process, he didn’t try to influence me to go to Michigan or anywhere else, he just put the decision all on me."Kearney, a senior at Detroit Southeastern, participated in the Next Generation Sports Preseason Showcase Nov. 14 in Flint. The six-foot-five wing player showed off the array of skills that made him a target of MSU. He's athletic, he uses his height to see the floor and pass well and he's unselfish, unafraid to mix it up inside and get on the glass. Kearney has range out to the three-point line and the ability to get to the basket. He's not content, however, to simply go to Michigan State next year without adding to his repertoire.
"I have a versatile game," Kearney said. "I’m a pretty good shooter, good passer. As far as what I’m working on, I just need to get a lot stronger, a lot quicker."
Because of his build, athleticism and inside-outside game, Kearney's game is sometimes compared to another Detroit product, Durrell Summers. In fact, MSU's strong Detroit-area contingent, which also includes Keith Appling and Derrick Nix, also influenced Kearney's decision.
"Seeing those guys go there and do what they’re doing, those guys (Nix, Appling) will be NBA prospects in a few years and Durrell this upcoming year," Kearney said. "It definitely motivates me to be a part of the Detroit pipeline."
Kearney's presence at the NGS showcase was a bit surprising. Often, high school stars who have already signed with colleges skip those types of events, which are essentially a day full of drills followed by scrimmages. But his appearance highlights another aspect of Kearney's personality that was appealing to MSU and other schools: he has a reputation as a hard worker. He believes he, along with fellow 2011 wing recruits, will be able to help replace some of what the team will be losing with Summers.
"That’s the type of role they want me to come in and fill," he said. "I’m working every day to be able to do that."
Kearney is getting ready for his senior season with Detroit Southeastern, a team with state title aspirations that also includes Dayton commit Percy Gibson. Kearney also has a shot at this year's Mr. Basketball award, which is wide open right now with a lot of potential candidates.
"No doubt, city and state championship are my goals," Kearney said. "If I get that, then my (high school) career is complete."