The denouement (HT: MSU film classes) of Gary Harris’ recruitment has finally arrived with his last official visit bringing him to East Lansing this weekend as the guest of Michigan State. Unlike some processes where a clear leader leaks publicly, all we have for Harris at this point are rumors, conjecture, and messageboard posters of unknown accuracy. In fact, there appears to be two current, completely opposite stories being floated around. The first says that this competition has come down to an in-state battle with Purdue and Indiana the only two teams left standing. In contrast, you can find claims that both Hoosier State schools are out while Kentucky is making a final push against MSU’s strong position. Or then again, perhaps this is ultimately Indiana vs. MSU as many have speculated for months. It’s become a game of “believe who you want to believe” at least until the MSU visit concludes and a whole new batch of WOTS crops up. The most encouraging words recently have come out of MSU's 24/7Sports affiliate SpartanTailgate ($). Their staff is cautiously optimistic about Harris to MSU. One thing MSU fans can feel good about is that there are far worse positions to be in than the final visit. If Harris is on the fence or even leaning in a different direction, I’m sure the Spartan coaches and players will do a great job of giving him something to think about. If he's feeling MSU already, they'll seal the deal.
I've mentioned this before but it's appropriate to bring up here: in the weeks and days preceding his announcement, the widespread word was that Adreian Payne was down to Kentucky and West Virginia. Astute observers would discover that this was merely baseless internet rumor moving in a feedback loop until it was reinforced as gospel. The morale is, regardless of what we might hear about Harris during the next week, take some caution before you make any bets.
More updates on players not named "Gary Harris" after the jump...
There will be another Indiana standout in town this weekend too. Jaquan Lyle, a 6’4” combo guard from Evansville in the class of 2014, is stopping in for an unofficial visit. Lyle holds an offer from MSU gained this fall and is looking to get a better feel for a possible college destination. Does it make a difference that MSU is hosting two such players on the same weekend? If Lyle is more of a maverick than an IU “Movement” character and willing to head out of state, it might be an advantage in helping Gary Harris stay in that frame of mind. Lyle is currently a consensus Top 10 prospect in his class.
Rumors circulated that MSU might entertain a third big-time prospect this weekend. Top 2014 PG Tyus Jones of Minnesota was considering a trip to either MSU or Ohio State. However, Joe Davis of Scoutsfocus later updated that a choice of OSU had been made. While you probably want a visitor like Jones as often as you can get him, it may be a blessing in disguise. With Jaquan Lyle on campus and the pressure of Gary Harris’ official visit, there may be another weekend in which the staff can focus more on Jones if he’s going to travel 600+ miles.
The stakes for Jones’ services appeared to get even higher when an interview was published with DevilHoops.com last week. Though his friendship with Chicago super-sophomore Jahlil Okafor is well-documented, in that interview, Jones stated confidently his intention that he and Okafor will be a package deal and play college basketball together. Currently, they have a common list of Arizona, MSU, OSU, and Duke. There’s no doubt that such a pledge could alter during the next months (years?) of their recruitments but any school would love the possibility of locking up two Top 10 2014 talents, one possibly the best post-player in his class and the other the top true point. This is one to keep a close eye on.
2013 Mishawaka PG Demetrius Jackson made his visit last month for Midnight Madness. Despite some major buzz from fans, Jackson is still continuing his recruitment and left that weekend to continue to weigh his options. As was mentioned before, it still appears that his major suitors are MSU along with Notre Dame. N.D Kendrick of RecruitRecon reconfirmed that with this tweet from Monday:
2013 6-2 G Demetrius Jackson Marian (IN) says Notre Dame & Mich. St. are coming on strong.Butler, IU, Xavier, Iowa, Illinois & others in mix
One other re-capping Midnight Madness note included the surprise visit of Tommie Hamilton, a true center prospect from Chicago in the 2013 class. Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye broke the news and spoke as though he was expected to be in Urbana-Champaign. Hamilton's recruitment has been quiet and the WOTS was that he was likely headed to play for Bruce Weber. I talked with Roy on twitter and he said that not only was this appearance possibly telling about Hamilton and Illinois but it was also confirmed that MSU and Hamilton are definitely serious about one another. Hamilton has fallen in the rankings some over the past year but he has great skills and needs to show more consistent focus while improving his post game.
Hamilton wasn't the only Chicago prospect in town. Though SF Paul White became a late scratch to prepare for USA basketball, Cliff Alexander was able to attend as planned. He's another true post, like Hamilton already listed as 6'9" while only a high school sophomore. He spoke briefly with ChicagoHoops.com about his visit and perhaps the most important quote was this:
“He [Izzo] talked about how he is going to start recruiting me harder and how I play like Amare Stoudemire.”
Coach Izzo has a excellent track-record when recruiting a player hard so we'll have to see how much time he spends on Alexander. Cliff is also being pursued by the Big Ten's best (OSU, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana) and national powers like Kansas and UConn. If you're keeping score, that's five Top 10-20 players from '14 that I've mentioned so far. I think the complaint that Izzo doesn't pursue "elite" talent is more dead than the zombie I dressed as on Halloween.
If you didn’t catch it, Sam Webb had a lengthy feature on Drake Harris in the Detroit News last week. The main focus was Drake’s interest and success in football as well as the competition for his services between Tom Izzo and John Beilein. There’s no disputing that many felt Drake Harris would be a Spartan by now but the wait has continued. Public news pieces like this aren't always the most in-depth or revealing but the quotes from both Drake and his father suggest that the family is in no hurry to rush the recruitment. They’re quoted here speaking in terms of not weeks or even months but years. In the twisting world of recruiting, this doesn’t mean Drake Harris won’t commit by nightfall. However, it could mean that John Beilein has made some dents with this MSU-lean.
Unless big news breaks, this could be it from me until the Early Signing Period begins (Nov. 9th). Let’s hope we’re celebrating Michigan State’s outstanding four-man class come the second week of November.