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Welcome Aboard: Branden Dawson

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The rebounding.  It's so beautiful.

We here at TOC, Inc. have been hoping to post this story for quite some time now, and now we can: Branden Dawson, Tom Izzo's top recruiting target for the Class of 2011, has verbally committed to Michigan State.  Dawson will be MSU's first player from Indiana since Chris Hill (edit: that'll be Russell Byrd), and the most highly-regarded player to commit to MSU since Delvon Roe, and perhaps Shannon Brown.  This. Is. A. Big. Deal.  Bullets:

  • 6'6", 200 lbs., from Lew Wallace High School, Gary, Indiana.
  • 2009-10 stats: 23.9ppg, 14.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 3.1 bpg, 65% FG, 77% 3pt (which I find difficult to believe), 61% FT.
  • Scout: 4 stars, #28 nationally, #6 small forward.  I would expect that this rating will be rising soon, as Dave Telep, Scout's head basketball recruiting expert, is one of Dawson's biggest proponents.
  • Rivals: 5 stars, #25 nationally, #7 small forward.
  • ESPN: 97 rating, #14 nationally, #4 small forward.
  • Offers from: Purdue, Indiana, UCLA, Georgetown, and Marquette, among others.

Tons of information, after the jump.

So, as I was saying, Dave Telep is a big fan.  First:

Dave Telep: However you want to phrase it, pound for pound, inch for inch, whatever, Branden Dawson is in my opinion the best rebounder in this class. Actually, he’s the best offensive rebounder, which to me is an even loftier distinction. Dawson owns a strong body, a nose for the ball and the natural ability to track down a rebound like he’s locked in via homing device.

Evan Daniels: The nation’s top rebounder isn’t a power forward or a center. The nation’s top rebounder is 2011 wing prospect Branden Dawson. An athletic 6-foot-6 forward, Dawson makes it his personal goal to lock down the paint and snag any and every rebound in his vicinity. He’s especially an animal on the offensive glass and more often than not turns those boards into points.

And again:

@DaveTelep It is a TOTAL joke how good an offensive rebounder Branden Dawson is.  Had a monster day today. Shot it better. Putting him in my trunk

And that assessment is corroborated by others.  From LeBron James' King City Classic:

Dawson has always been on the cusp of the five-star/four-star borderline as a prospect. He has a college ready body, strong athleticism and is an exceptional defender, rebounder and finisher. At this event, however, Dawson has displayed an expanded skill set. He has shot the ball well from behind the arc and has looked good with the basketball in the open court.

. . . and July's Summer Jam:

The combo forward for the SYF Players was his typical self on Tuesday. As always Dawson attacked the rim with vengeance, and converted on several of those offensive rebounds. Also he is an excellent defensive player because of his athleticism and long arms. In transition Dawson finishes as well as any player, and he always plays with a good motor. In the two games seen, Dawson looked much better with his form and rotation on his shot, and even knocked a few threes in.

(There's also a longer writeup from the same tournament here.)  It's particularly encouraging that both of those blurbs mentioned Dawson's shooting improvement.  Previously, that was one of the only knocks on his game.  There's also a concern that, at 6'6" and 200 lbs., he may have difficulty checking some of the Big Ten's bigger and stronger players.

But nonetheless, it's clear that Dawson is the real deal.  His rebounding skills are outstanding, and his numerous highlight films clearly show that 1) he's a relatively accomplished open-court player, 2) his driving and finishing skills are fantastic, and 3) oh man, he can rebound.  Best of all, there are indications that he doesn't have designs on a one-and-done college career.  He's a classic Tom Izzo player, and a tailor-made replacement for Durrell Summers.  (By contrast, Joe Rexrode compares him to Raymar Morgan.  Either way, fine with me.)

And there can be no doubt how badly Izzo wanted him.  A look on his Rivals page reveals that Tom Izzo was his primary recruiter--not Mark Montgomery or Dwayne Stephens, which is rare.  Izzo was present for many of his AAU games . . .

"Coach (Tom) Izzo, Georgetown and UCLA have been there for every game," he said. "They were even there when I was sitting out with a concussion, so that is nice to see."

. . . an effort which seems to have paid off:

James Dye, Dawson's summer coach with the SYF Players, confirmed that Dawson verbally committed to play in East Lansing, Mich.

Dye said Izzo formed a great relationship this summer with Dawson, who saw the six-time Final Four and one-time national championship coach at every game that Dawson played in over the summer.

"Branden saw something in that," Dye said. "Every game he played in, Izzo was right there in the middle of the front row watching BJ play. That meant a lot to him I know."

The other important note here is that bringing Dawson in really drives a stake through Purdue's recruiting.  Matt Painter wanted Dawson baaaaaaaad.  The Boilers have been following Dawson for a very long time -- and so have their blogs, as evidenced by the extensive Dawson file on the now-defunct Purdue Basketball Blog.  Taking the state of Indiana's top recruit from an area typically dominated by Purdue (as Rexrode says, this is akin to Purdue signing a top prospect from Flint) in a year when Purdue's national profile is nearly as high as ours surely serves as a warning shot -- that Izzo won't cede his long-term position at the top of the conference without a serious fight.

KJ has updated the projected basketball roster.  Barring unforeseen developments, the commitments of Dawson and AAU teammate Travis Trice (more on him tomorrow) mean that MSU's Class of 2011 recruiting is now complete.  2 scholarships remain for 2012.

In short, this is a massive recruit for MSU, enough to send the RCMB and MSU fans everywhere into a tizzy, and enough for us to forgive some slight failures in communication.  This also means that, amazingly enough, the 2011-12 season has the potential to be even better than next season for MSU, as a frontcourt lineup with Roe, Green, Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Garrick Sherman, and Alex Gauna could be an absolute monster.  Dawson's a recruit that even casual MSU fans should be excited about.