Yesterday, 2013 MSU basketball target Derrick Walton committed to Michigan. First, I want to stress that I have no interest in one of those intolerable "sour grapes" posts – the ones where Team A’s recruiting target picks Team B so Team A’s writer goes on and grumpily diminishes the whole thing. Ugh. No thanks. Derrick Walton is an outstanding rising junior, considered by many the state’s No. 1 point guard. Walton is a great pick-up for Michigan and Coach Beilein will use his skills to be a pain against MSU over four years. It’s clear MSU scouted him carefully with Walton on the verge of an MSU offer. He may have received that full invitation had he waited, leading to reactions from Spartan basketball fans in the range of satisfied to very excited. I myself was a proponent and enjoyed Walton's passing and court vision. The fact that he was building a reputation as a scorer during a successful summer was icing on the cake. Exciting addition for the Wolverines; no doubt.
That said, when a player of interest commits to your rival before you’re confident enough to offer, it can’t be considered a disaster. The ending of Derrick Walton’s recruitment is a hint on how MSU is playing the 2012-2014 classes. Despite the well-deserved hype around the 2013 in-state guard class, MSU has been aggressive in other directions and may ultimately pass on a 2013 point guard. The most obvious evidence is Michigan State offering a 2014 ball-handler ahead of anyone in the previous class. Tyus Jones (ranked #9 overall by ESPN) of Minnesota had a great summer and added Michigan State to his list of offers. Considering he's on the record as a long-time State fan, MSU is in good position on this one. MSU has also been watching other 2014 point guards like Jaquan Lyle, who stated his opinion that MSU might offer soon after a recent visit. The conventional reaction is correct on this - the staff looks comfortable with Appling, Trice, and Valentine into 2014 when they could land a big-time freshman PG. Another point guard from the 2013 class is not a necessity.
Of course, this is fluid, and MSU may have been right on the verge of making a serious play for Walton. Also, the coaching staff is still watching 2013 Mishawaka point Demetrius Jackson who some believe to be superior to anyone in the Mitten State class. It will be interesting to see if the absence of Walton as an option shifts things. Does another point guard now get more attention? Jackson? Monte Morris? D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera? Or does Izzo continue to look ahead at '14? Coaches are off the road from the evaluation period and that's a prime time to refine recruiting priorities and make decisions with new information.
The upshot for Michigan State is that when you can hold off on offering a player like Derrick Walton only to lose him to a rival and still not have a major cause for concern, it's a testament to where your program and its recruiting have risen. So, again, great recruiting week for UM. "Boo-yah" to them, but, as Pete and others have suggested, there's more prospects like Jabari Parker, Drake Harris, Tyus Jones, Gary Harris, and James Young who should help to keep Michigan State's future recruiting success a likely proposition.