It's time to revive our basketball recruiting articles! After all, football is here, fall is arriving soon, and once again MSU is set to welcome some important visitors in the next few months. With Deyonta Davis and Kyle Ahrens already in the fold and firmly committed, Tom Izzo and staff aren't exactly scrambling after tons of prospects like they were last year. However, things are increasingly interesting with additional players on the Plan A target list besides the long-standing duo of Jalen Brunson and Caleb Swanigan.
The big news comes from Wisconsin big-time big man Henry Ellenson. Ellenson announced a final three of schools and omitted some shockers like Duke and Wisconsin along with North Carolina, Oregon, Indiana, and other teams after the five-star forward. His final three are Marquette, Kentucky, and Michigan State. This is going to be very intriguing. I, for one, admit to being pessimistic and not envisioning MSU as in the forefront of this recruitment. That just goes to remind us how much of this remains behind the scenes. Ellenson's game is inside/outside, and it's certainly possible that Adreian Payne's outstanding senior season gave Ellenson some encouragement about how he might prosper in a similar role at Michigan State. Many recruitniks think Ellenson is going to follow his brother who just transferred to Marquette. With the family connection and proximity to Rice Lake (four hours), that certainly makes sense. Still, it'd be silly to count out heavy hitters like UK and MSU. With Ellenson apparently bypassing his other two permitted visits, this will be intense and focused. He's scheduled to be in East Lansing on September 20th.
Ellenson will be joined that weekend by Jalen Brunson who will be there as well for his official visit. Despite some drama about whether MSU would get an official from Jalen, one was scheduled shortly after his other visits were planned, and I wouldn't make too much out of any of that. Joe Hendrickson has an interesting article breaking down the pro's and con's of each of the Brunson's five finalists in detail. One clear fact is that only Villanova is even close to MSU's level of prominence. The promise of continued improvement under John Groce for home-state Illinois (coupled with their available PT) could be a factor as well. Temple has a strong family connection to the Brunsons. This is a tough one to call too, though at the risk of trolling, I would be surprised to see Purdue emerge victorious out of that pack. Despite the presence of Lourawls Nairn one class ahead, MSU needs an impact point guard soon. If they fail to land Brunson, the staff may have to turn to Denzel Valentine in 2015-2016 to run the point when Nairn has to sit. With Valentine starting on the wing also, this could have a domino effect of playing-time consequences.
Michigan State is also recruiting another wing for 2015. Though it really looks like the wing roster is packed for the upcoming seasons, Coach Izzo sounds serious about Duncanville, TX shooting guard Matt McQuaid. Though Texas is far off the radar, Matt's father was a star athlete for Midland (MI) and is his son's AAU coach. MSU also recruited local star Roger Franklin out of the same area not too many years ago. Though I haven't seen it confirmed, there is talk that they might be visiting the same weekend as Brunson and Ellenson. This recruitment is about shooting, McQuaid's specialty, and though they play different positions, adding McQuaid to the roster would replace some of what MSU lost when Kenny Kaminski was dismissed. His other officials are believed to be University of Texas, Creighton, Indiana, and North Carolina though some of that is still up in the air.
There are a few players with less finalized plans. Most of us know that Caleb Swanigan is a major target for Michigan State. Winning the Ellenson sweepstakes and pairing him with Deyonta Davis would make Swanigan's recruitment less high-stakes. Swanigan and his guardian Roosevelt Barnes have not made any strong moves to line up visits or come to a fall decision. It seems likely at this point that Swanigan will wait until April to sign unless he decides to rush a series of visits or makes a decision without officials. Despite the amount of positive buzz around Caleb and MSU, I'm not crossing my fingers on this one, especially if the recruitment drags on into next year. MSU is still in contact with Saginaw standout Eric Davis but I still believe the most likely destination for him is out of state. Eric Davis to MSU would surprise a number of basketball observers in Michigan.
That's the story for 2015. Here's updates on some of the younger players still getting recruited by Michigan State:
Michigan State offered Joey Brunk, a center out of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2016. Brunk is a Top 100 player in his class and has attention from the local teams like Purdue and Indiana as well as nearby schools like Iowa and Northwestern. One consequence of MSU's offer to Brunk might be the continued observation of Michigan's own Austin Davis without an offer. They have a similar build, game, and projection, and Brunk appears ahead on MSU's list for now.
This firmly strikes me as "do not hold breath" on but 2016 super wing Jayson Tatum mentioned talking with Coach Izzo in a blog post this summer. Even though MSU remains in contact, pulling him out of Missouri and away from Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke might be too much of a chore for MSU. He recently spoke of an intention to cut his list of 18 offers roughly in half.
Target Nick Ward was recently offered by Purdue. He already has some strong B1G offers including MSU and Iowa. Though he might not have ideal size as a 6'7" power forward, MSU clearly sees something they like by jumping in with an early offer. He attends the same school of MSU freshman Javon Bess so there is an established relationship there.
The decision of Jalen Brunson will have major ramifications for Michigan State recruiting a point guard in 2016. If the Spartans do get Brunson, they're unlikely to add another point guard in a third consecutive class. That said, Jamal Murray of Toronto is listed as 6'5" and clearly has the size to play off the ball part of the time. He has a load of offers from schools all across the country. Whether MSU can maintain a position above the pack is yet to be seen. Our team is still after the more local product Cassius Winston of Detroit. Coach Izzo and staff appear to see the same thing that national analysts do and have been heavily after Winston. It's unclear how adding Brunson would change that attention. There is some buzz that Winston might be difficult to keep away from John Beilein and the Wolverines.
With Josh Jackson leaving the state to play in California, Miles Bridges has become an even bigger priority for Michigan State. Though Bridges also plays at Huntington Prep in
Nevada West Virginia, his interest and connection with the state of Michigan looks strong. If you're a believer in the 24/7 Crystal Ball, it sounds good for Michigan State with all 10 votes for the Spartans beginning in January up to the past month. A few writers even switched their votes away from Kansas. Though he doesn't exactly have the national hype of Josh Jackson, Bridges is still a four-star player with a similar position. He would be great addition as a big, versatile power wing.
Looking at even younger players, that same Crystal Ball has faith that 2017's Brian "Tugs" Bowen will be a Spartan. Fingers crossed, Bowen is still playing up in Saginaw and hasn't announced any plans to leave the state! Ranked in the Top 10 of his class by most services, Bowen has immense potential. Already 6'7", he's a developing player not constrained to a particular position. He looks to be a tall wing but may end up with the size to play the post as he matures. MSU is in great shape here. As long as Tom Izzo stays on as coach, I might be as confident about Bowen in Green as anyone in this round-up.
2017 is strong with local talent and another player to watch is Xavier Tillman from Grand Rapids. Already carrying a strong frame at 6'6", he projects to play the post in college. His mother enjoys taking pictures of his visits, and Xavier was on campus for the Jacksonville State game. He participated in an open gym with the current Spartans as well as Deyonta Davis, Gary Harris, and Draymond Green. Tillman has University of Michigan connections in his family so legacy may be at play here. Even as MSU and UM pursue, he's a national five-star recruit, and he visited Kentucky this weekend as well. .
If a few things bounce well, Michigan State is in line to land an outstanding 2015 class. They already have two excellent players in the fold. Everyone knows about Deyonta Davis as his game pushes him into talk for a McDonalds All-American spot. Kyle Ahrens has been wowing people back from his leg injury with impressive athleticism and twitter-trending dunks. Getting a point guard on-board with Brunson is perhaps the most vital thing, but even without him, landing Swanigan or Ellenson would be monstrous for the frontcourt. Add in a shooter like McQuaid and we're talking a class just as good as the recent 2012 unit (Harris, Costello, Valentine, Kaminski). This projection should become much clearer in the next two months.