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Welcoming Michigan State's 2015 basketball class - Kyle Ahrens, Matt McQuaid, and Deyonta Davis

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With three signings taking place this week, we welcome and review the new players who will suit up for MSU next season.

Leon Halip

The time has arrived when MSU officially welcomes its early signees for 2014. Well, sort of; Muskegon forward Deyonta Davis and Ohio guard Kyle Ahrens are going to sign tomorrow, but we press on! (Update: Ahrens and McQuaid signed Wednesday, Davis will Thursday. See comments for Izzo quotes). As I’ll talk about more in conclusion, this has been one of the steadiest, most typical recruiting seasons for Michigan State in some time. In terms of national recognition, the class has good balance. We welcome one five-star player, a Top-75 elite shooter, and an under-recruited Top-150 versatile wing. With MSU focusing on players with whom they have a strong relationship regardless of star power, this is business as usual. It’s an impressive class and most recruiting services give MSU the third best group in the conference behind OSU and Illinois. A later addition of Ft. Wayne five-star center Caleb Swanigan would obviously give us another boost.

Because two of the players are signing tomorrow, there isn’t likely to be much from MSU today. If Coach Izzo has any juicy or revealing quotes, we can update the conversation tomorrow.

Onto this year’s class (in order of commitment):

Deyonta Davis

Ht: 6’9"
Wt: 210
HS: Muskegon (MI)
Rankings
24/7: **** , No. 34 overall
Scout: ****, No. 29 overall
Rivals: ***** , No. 23 overall
ESPN: *****, No. 15 overall

Original "Welcome Aboard" Post

Over four years, Michigan State fans were treated to a lithe post player with speed, excellent athleticism, strong shooting, and respectable blocking skills. You don’t often get to see a player like Adreian Payne. Amazingly, MSU is adding a player who will do a nice Payne impression inside the Breslin. Davis might not be the shooter Payne was, but he’s probably ahead as a shot blocker. He can shoot the ball effectively in midrange so who knows where he might ascend with that skill. In addition, Davis grabs at least 10 misses a game with ease so he’s already a pro on the boards. Coming out of high school, Davis will be a great compliment to another post player. Long and lean, he’s better suited right now as an inside/outside PF than a body-banging center. As a freshman, he could work alongside a mature player like Matt Costello or Gavin Schilling Further into the future, everyone knows MSU wants Swanigan to be the Derrick Nix to Davis’s Payne, as they were in AAU last year.

The timing of Deyonta Davis’ commitment is worth recounting. For a frame of reference, Rivals had him as a three-star when he chose MSU last December. Stars aren’t everything, but Davis was firmly under the radar at that time. However, he was excellent during his junior season and received tons of praise and attention. His Muskegon team went undefeated on a run to the state championship. In the state title game, he bested the MSU targeted post player Yante Maten, a prospect also a year older. By June, ESPN had Davis up to #18 nationally. The overall appraisal of his game received a supercharge unlike many others.

Despite all this well-deserved hype, there will be an obvious adjustment period for any young post player. Being a shotblocker doesn’t necessarily translate to full man-to-man post competence. By most descriptions, Davis is also a very mild-mannered young man. While his character and humility is a credit, we might have to see how he holds up to the scrutiny of both his opponents and coaches. Playing for Coach Izzo in the Big Ten can test a more gentle personality.

Davis is clearly the "gem" of this recruiting class for Michigan State. With Brandon Dawson graduating, Davis will get his shot to start immediately at power forward. He’ll have competition from returnees Marvin Clark Jr., Kenny Goins, and Colby Wollenman, but Davis might be the early favorite for that spot.

There's a lot of video of Deyonta out there.  Here is some footage playing alonside Swanigan (#50) at the Run-N-Slam

Kyle Ahrens

Ht: 6’5"
Wt: 190
HS: Versailles (OH)
Rankings
24/7: ***, No. 145 overall.
Scout: ****
Rivals: ***
ESPN: ***

Original "Welcome Aboard" Post

Introducing your 2014 candidate for the "MSU Recruiting Class Diamond in the Rough Award." Kyle Ahrens has been working his way back from a major leg injury suffered during his junior season that slowed both his play and recruitment. He long held offers from Dayton, Xavier, Iowa, Butler, and other schools while waiting on Ohio State and Michigan. A western Ohio product, an offer from the Buckeyes would have been big. From reading message board chatter, many fans wanted to see Ahrens added to the loaded OSU class. That might end up being a legitimate lament as Ahrens has scarcely missed a hop since returning to the court. Kyle committed to Michigan State in June before that offer could come through. He told the Free Press, "I just loved it at Michigan State; it's family over there…I loved every second of it, and it was an easy choice."

Earlier in high school, Ahrens made his reputation as a good shooter. As a 6’5" athlete, he’s demonstrated that he’s much more. Even after fracturing his tibia and fibula, Ahrens is not earth-bound by any means. Here is one of the many dunks that got attention on twitter.

Oh yeah, there’s this one too.

Not everyone is sold despite these highlights, and Ahrens is still a three-star in many services. It’s difficult to believe that ESPN is correct that there are 40 superior players at his position. Even with the loaded backcourt, he’ll have an opportunity to work his way into the rotation off the bench immediately. There are numerous factors to recommend him as an early contributor. He has good size and strength and a diverse offensive game. I haven’t seen anyone talk about his defense (few people scout this, huh?), but that’s always a swing factor in how much playing time you get at MSU.

Matt McQuaid

Ht: 6’5"
Wt: 180
HS: Ducanville (TX)
Rankings
24/7: ****, No. 68 overall
Scout: ****, No. 72 overall
Rivals: ****, No. 72 overall
ESPN: ****, No. 65 overall

Original "Welcome Aboard" Post

If Ahrens is your analogy for Javon Bess for coming from under the radar (out of Ohio as well, no less) to commit to MSU, then Matt McQuaid is your Marvin Clark Jr. for taking a winding route to East Lansing. He was originally an SMU commit until July when he reopened things to look at more schools. Coach Izzo may really have stolen one here. When McQuiad chose MSU, it was an upset over his primary suitor of Creighton. Even close to the end, most observers believed the extended relationship with Creighton would be enough to send Matt to Omaha. Sometimes it helps to have Coach Izzo’s reputation and flex the muscle of the resources offered playing basketball at MSU.

Shooting, shooting, shooting is the rep on McQuaid. Jeff Goodman of ESPN called him "arguably the best shooter in the country." That’s crazy. Yes, MSU has been burned on this before, but with the ceremonial kiss to the floor exorcising everyone’s demons, it’s time to retire a Russell Byrd reference whenever we read this. For every Byrd, there’s Chris Hill, Drew Neitzel, Kenny Kaminski, Travis Trice, Bryn Forbes, etc., who have largely shot as well as advertised. I expect McQuaid to come in draining 3’s at a high level.

This video from the summer compares him to Klay Thompson, which is attractive. However, I also read another equally appealing yet troublesome comparison…{dramatic pause}…Nik Stauskas. Can you see it? Kidding aside, it’s not bad when one of your recruits is compared to the reigning Big Ten PTOY.

There’s been discussion about whether one of McQuaid or Ahrens will redshirt because of a wing logjam next year. The returning lineup includes Denzel Valentine (Sr.), Bryn Forbes (Sr.), Alvin Ellis III (Jr.), Eron Harris (RS Jr.), and Javon Bess (So.). Now, two factors could shake up the packed house. Obviously, someone might leave via transfer or a pro opportunity (you know I’m OD’ing on Kool-Aid when I envision Denzel Valentine as an NBA early entrant). Denzel could also return to start at point guard alongside two additional wings, with Tum Tum Nairn on the bench. If someone does need a ‘shirt, it will be a competition to see who is most needed right away. On one hand, Matt McQuaid’s elite shooting provides an immediate skill as a specialist. However, a senior Bryn Forbes will give you a lot of what McQuaid already does. Ahrens appears more versatile and physically ready. Still, It’s hard to turn down shooting so this will be something interesting to watch.

This recruiting cycle has probably been the most "normal" in some time. After winning huge recruiting battles for Branden Dawson and Gary Harris in 2011 and 2012, it looked like Coach Izzo could absolutely do no wrong. We probably should have realized at the time that landing every recruit Izzo prioritized was not sustainable. 2013 and 2014 brought that back down to earth to say the least. However, the negative extreme wasn’t likely to be the norm either. Recruiting next year’s additions, Coach Izzo won some and lost some. He lost out on difference makers like Jalen Brunson and Henry Ellenson, but wasted no time offering and landing Deyonta Davis. After missing a few MSU leans by not going strong early (James Young and Tyler Ulis are two), this was a tactical victory to get Davis wrapped up almost a year early. With Davis’ profile on the verge of exploding, who knows if it would have been that easy deeper into winter. Even though MSU pursued players like Jalen Coleman and Charles Matthews, wings Matt McQuaid and Kyle Ahrens were far from Plan C recruits. They were two players MSU focused on and were able to successfully lure to East Lansing.

What’s also familiar is that Signing Day is going to pass with MSU waiting on one big recruit. The Spartans still want to reinforce their frontcourt by adding Caleb Swanigan, the mountain-of-a-man center from Ft. Wayne. Caleb was just in East Lansing on Friday for the exhibition game but apparently resisted getting swept up in the moment to pull the trigger for MSU. He headed out to Duke the following day. The long running WOTS has been that MSU is the team to beat for Swanigan. However, the fact that he appears sincerely undecided and wants to wait to commit is probably a bad sign. At the risk of being overly negative, the assumption is that MSU has not made the case to seal the deal yet. Is something going to solidify the relationship in the next few months or will some other team have the opportunity to catch Swanigan’s eye and move in front? You can tell which I think is more likely.

Regardless of the outcome with Swanigan, I’m sure Coach Izzo will keep an eye open to fill up the class. It almost certainly won’t be a wing. MSU is as full as they can reasonably get there. At this stage, it’d have to be an excellent point guard out of nowhere to keep MSU from waiting on 2016’s Cassius Winston. The most likely addition would be another big body to fill up the paint. MSU loses Brandon Dawson this year, and despite the addition of Deyonta Davis, having one more big body wouldn’t hurt depth.

This week, we can celebrate a very strong recruiting class with at least three exciting players who not only will bring something to the court but who all appear to have bought in to what it means to be a Spartan. Welcome Deyonta Davis, Kyle Ahrens, and Matt McQuaid to MSU!