Previously on Summer Shootaround: Travis Trice and Keith Appling.
In his freshman season, Brandan Kearney was the ninth guy in a nine-man rotation. His play was consistent enough that Tom Izzo put him on the floor in 35 of Michigan State's 37 games, the only exceptions being the season opener on the aircraft carrier and the conference opener vs. Indiana. Kearney received double-digit playing time in 10 of the team's final 12 games (partly due to the Trice and Dawson injuries).
From that perspective, Kearney met expectations, giving MSU a versatile defender Izzo could trust to give the team a solid stretch of minutes when needed. His presence allowed MSU to utilize the kind of deep rotation that's been a feature of the best Izzo teams.
A closer examination of Kearney's numbers, however, reveals that his positive contributions were largely limited to the defensive end. His offensive rates stats were acceptable--he made 52.2% of his two-point attempts and 38.5% of his three-point attempts while posting a reasonable-for-a-freshman-guard turnover rate of 23.9%--but his forays into the offensive milieu were few and far between. Kearney averaged just 4.4 field goal attempts, 5.0 points, and 2.3 assists per 40 minutes on the court. His possession usage rate of 8.6% was comparable to Mike Kebler's the season prior.
|Stat||Per 40 Minutes|
Now the team didn't necessarily need Kearney to initiate offense or take a lot of shots as a freshman (and he did come up with some big points in one key game--scoring 6 points in MSU's narrow loss in Ann Arbor), but his offensive production fell short of the profile he brought with him as a high-ceiling high school recruit. Our own intrpdtrvlr did note then that "Kearney has received some criticism for not being aggressive enough . . . ," so the timeline for him to become an offensive factor may just be a little longer than those for other incoming players. Further, Kearney's profile as a taller guard who's most comfortable with the ball in his hands may mean that he was unlikely to put up a lot of points as a secondary wing player.
In the upcoming season, Kearney will be competing with Denzel Valentine and Russell Byrd for minutes off the bench at the two and three spots (assuming Gary Harris quickly steps into starter-level minutes). He's clearly shown enough versatility on the defensive end to play 10-15 minutes per game. The question will be whether he can find more ways to contribute offensively. If not, Valentine, in particular, may catch or surpass him in the race for minutes over the course of the season. Kearney has plenty of time left in his career to improve and adapt, but the competition at MSU for minutes on the wing is going to be pretty fierce over the next couple years.