Well, that was a kick in the teeth, huh? Despite having scheduled an official visit less than two weeks away, Jalen Brunson decided to cut Purdue, Temple, and Michigan State to make a final decision tomorrow between Illinois and Villanova. Credit the Brunson family for not wanting to waste the time of coaches they had no intention playing for. I don't think there's any shame in that. As I said on twitter though, this has to lead to some increased strain between Coach Izzo and Chicago recruiting, particularly the Mac Irvin Fire. MSU has been after numerous prospects who spent time on the Fire and has consistently struck out, sometimes remarkably. They lost the inside track in their all-out attempt at Jabari Parker. Now, despite extended, encouraging recruitments, the pursuits of Fire standouts Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, and Jalen Brunson will all end without these players even taking an official to East Lansing. That is a significant lack of return for the time spent. Izzo was once known to be a minimal presence in Chicago, and it is certainly possible that he could withdraw his attention to focus elsewhere.
After MSU's rough stretch of misses in 2013 and 2014, it was unclear whether this was a bad, fluky stretch, or whether the staff was facing increased challenges in recruiting. Unfortunately, this event gives some credence to the latter interpretation. Doesn't the staff who successfully recruited Brandon Dawson and Gary Harris secure Jalen Brunson over Villanova and Illinois? Landing those two was the high-water mark of confidence in Michigan State's recruiting prowess. Of course, this narrative could flip immediately if Michigan State gets Caleb Swanigan or Henry Ellenson, two other five-stars Michigan State is recruiting. In addition, we just put a wing guard and stretch 4 in the first round of the NBA draft. There should be a bump as a result. Perhaps this is a point guard specific problem, especially with Keith Appling limping to the finish line of his career. That's why it's wise not to overreact too much. However, after the recruiting struggles of the past few years, questioning the strength of our recruiting pull is not exactly speaking rashly. It's still to be revealed how fruitful MSU's 2013 & 2014 classes will be once they inherit more responsibility. The Spartan's recent success has been built upon players recruited from earlier classes.
How will Coach Izzo react to missing on Brunson? How badly does MSU need a 2015 PG? Without one, the following season's team (2015-2016) will have to solve the riddle of what to do with the spot when the only traditional point guard, Louwrawls Nairn, has to take a break. The duty will almost certainly fall on a senior Denzel Valentine. He can either start and play the majority of his minutes as the lead guard or slide over when Nairn has to sit. In either case, needing Denzel Valentine (or another wing) to play PG might help open up the logjam at the 2 & 3 for future rosters. It would be hard to imagine the Spartans pulling another Nairn-esque miracle and getting a quality point guard late in the fall again, though I wouldn't be shocked to see Coach Izzo stay aggressive in trying to fill another scholarship throughout the next season. If that doesn't materialize, it's full sights on recruiting the next point guard for 2016. As we've talked about, Detroit Jesuit High's Cassius Winston is the most likely suspect there but he's no lock.
Michigan State already has two strong recruits in the fold for 2015. Deyonta Davis is a potential McDonalds' All-American and Kyle Ahrens is looking good after returning from a leg injury. Losing Brunson takes us further away from another stab at a "super class," but adding Swanigan, Ellenson, or Matt McQuaid would make it excellent again. Despite this week's setback, MSU is still well ahead of where they were in the past two cycles.