Yesterday's unsurprising commitment of James Young to Kentucky brings into sharp focus how much Tom Izzo has riding on a small number of players for the 2013 class. Although anything could happen, most analysts see Derrick Nix as the only likely departure from MSU after the coming season. That leaves two open scholarships to fill for 2013 and, for the most part, only two major prospects in the active discussion to fill them: Jabari Parker and Johnathan Williams III.
Izzo addressed the question of the still-empty class of 2013 at Media Day this week when he said that "as you know, there are no commitments yet because I think we're in on the right guys and got some work to do here the next few weeks". The "rightest" of these right guys is clearly Jabari Parker, the top-five forward from Simeon high school in Chicago. And the work Izzo needs to do will shift into high gear when Parker makes his official visit to Michigan State next weekend.
It may be a good thing that there's no home football game that weekend and nothing to shift the focus away from the school and Izzo's program. This could be a crucial visit for MSU basketball, as Parker is perhaps the highest profile recruit Izzo has seriously gone after, and he could be the highest ranked guy Izzo has brought in since Shannon Brown in 2003. Izzo is starting to consider his legacy now (he said at Media Day that "this very good program, when it hits elite status, that's when I'm going to hang up my whistle") and part of making that jump to elite status is going to be landing guys like Parker.
There's been a lot of buzz about Parker in the recent days following the completion of his in-home visits. The biggest news was his cutting his final list down to five schools: Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and BYU. He plans to make an official visit to each of these schools and has already scheduled the first three on the list. The fact that he is scheduling the visits so close together strongly suggests that he plans to announce a decision during the early signing period in November. Although it's not clear whether he'll be signing an actual letter of intent (he's been giving mixed signals on that point) he's very likely to be naming his choice.
The final bit of recent news regarding Parker has to do with his faith. As a Mormon, Parker is expected to go on a two-year mission for the Church. Just last weekend the Church of Latter Day Saints lowered the age for male high school graduates to perform full-time missionary service from 19 to 18. So Parker could go directly out of high school and from there to the NBA, skipping college altogether (the NBA only requires that players be at least one year removed from high school, not that they attend a year of college). To my knowledge Parker has not addressed this in public, but color me skeptical that he will choose this path. He's been proceeding to schedule his visits in the wake of the change in Church policy and there is also precedent, in Steve Young and others, to delay or skip the mission altogether. The coming weeks should tell.
Not to be forgotten in the commotion about Parker is forward Johnathan Williams III, from Southwind high school in Memphis (TN). This has been a somewhat under-the-radar recruitment but with Izzo bringing him in for an official visit, he has to be considered a top target. As Josh noted here yesterday, Izzo has been spotted returning from a visit to Memphis recently. Williams is expected to announce his college choice October
13th 18th (Ed. correction) at his church.
He is a 6'8" forward with the ability to play inside but also defend on the perimeter. He can play at the 3 or the 4, making him a good fit for Tom Izzo's system, which places a premium on versatility. For those unfamiliar with Williams, here's a video of him in action:
News from other classes has been largely about visits. Kentucky will host three players with MSU offers in the class of 2014 when Chicago forward Cliff Alexander and Indiana products JaQuan Lyle and Trey Lyles all attend Big Blue Madness this weekend. Although this might sting Spartan fans a little in the wake of James Young's commitment, I agree with Josh that visits to midnight madness events are evidence more of interest than final destination. For example, Jabari Parker will be attending Marquette's Midnight Madness to support a high school teammate even though he is not considering them for himself. Lyle and Lyles can probably be considered long-shots to become Spartans at this point, but nothing suggests that Alexander's interest in Izzo's program is wavering. He's still a top target for 2014.
In other 2014 news, Apple Valley (MN) point guard Tyus Jones and Chicago big man Jahlil Okafor are proceeding with their plans to visit Duke together for Midnight Madness and then take a trip to visit Roy Williams and North Carolina. Their intention to attend the same program remains intact for now and Michigan State is one of the schools to have offered both. Okafor has continued his blog for USA Today and in the most recent edition mentions having "a really good talk with coach (Tom) Izzo" and that "Coach Izzo just texted me and told me that he was gonna get up here to see me again this week".
Finally, more names are beginning to emerge in the class of 2015. MSU will be hosting Lake Forest (IL) PF Evan Boudreaux at Midnight Madness today. He was originally reported to be visiting November 3. So far Boudreaux has also been drawing interest from Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Stanford, among others. Karl Towns Jr. and Trevor Manuel remain the two known primary targets. Towns, who will ALSO be at Kentucky's Big Blue Madness, recently tweeted a picture of himself with Coach Izzo, so interest can be presumed to be active. Manuel, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Lansing Sexton, recently added an offer from Providence and visited North Carolina State. He continues to generate interest from the rest of the Big Ten as well. It would be wise, I think, to get to know him better, as he has as an impressively high skill level for a guy his size and age. Here's a video of him from Jay at PrepHoopsTV:
So aside from that, as they say, there is no news. But the coming weeks should bring a lot more clarity to the look of future Spartan teams, especially the class of 2013.