The big news this week was that Ohio State offered in-state prospect Nick Ward, a 4-star PF/C from Gahanna, Ohio. Michigan State was down to watch Ward recently, and he is a major target for the Spartans. Some have speculated that MSU is in as good of shape with Ward as any of its 2016 targets. He attends the same high school as did Javon Bess so there’s already an established relationship with the coaches there.
It’s unclear how inclined Ward and family are to keep him playing basketball in the state of Ohio. The timing of offers isn’t everything, but OSU certainly has ground to make up. Coach Izzo already invited Ward with a full scholarship early last summer. Though there’s been some concerns that Ward is undersized, his continued development has assured multiple coaches that he can succeed at a high level. Other offers include Wisconsin, Iowa State, Miami (FL), and basically every major basketball program in Ohio. He is capable of handling either post position for Michigan State. Since he hasn’t yet committed, there’s a possibility he wants to gauge the depth chart and wait to see which school Caleb Swanigan chooses.
Speaking of Swanigan, the big man from Ft. Wayne been consistent that his decision will come after the high school basketball season, and he’s timed it correctly to announce and sign during the late period in April. I get nervous when teams are alleged to be "leaders" in a recruitment but don’t close early. This has bitten MSU multiple times recently (Parker, Alexander, Ulis, I’m getting nauseous). If MSU had made the case and sealed the deal, I think Swanigan would have signed in November. With attention from heavy hitters like Duke, Kentucky, and Arizona, Coach Izzo will have to score a major recruiting win over some nemeses. Swanigan was also just down to Durham this month.
The only other player on the radar for 2015 is Jamal Murray, a Canadian combo guard known for being a 6’5" athlete who could play the point. His is still technically a 2016 player, but his father continues to discuss reclassifying as a strong possibility so I’m going to pencil it in as happening. Whether he comes to college next year or not, MSU is serious about Murray and has been in frequent contact this winter. In interviews, Jamal’s father has referenced the attention and presence from MSU coaches. If Murray can truly play point guard at a Big Ten level as a true frosh, he’ll have early playing time in the Breslin. It doesn’t matter if you believe Denzel Valentine will be handed the keys as a senior or that the staff will convert Eron Harris - there is no doubt that someone besides Tum Tum Nairn will have to help run the point in 2015-2016. Adding another point guard will let other players maintain their natural positions and give MSU increased versatility. If Murray covers 8-12 minutes at PG, he might be able to get another handful off the ball. Of course, this all falls to pieces if you believe Murray is being unnaturally distorted into a point guard as Jerry Meyer clearly does.
Michigan State only has one remaining scholarship for next season, but I speculate that they'll ultimately have two available. There are just too many wings next year for everyone to stick around. The roster might be able to absorb two talents like Murray and Swanigan.
Some other notes:
- Zagsblog has an article where Miles Bridges’ father lists Michigan State as one of the schools working the hardest to land his son, along with Louisville, Indiana, Iowa State, UConn and Pittsburgh. Bridges, a 6’7" forward originally from Flint, is a Top 10 player in the class of 2016.
- Bridges mentions playing with Cassius Winston, who is another primary MSU target. Coach Izzo is focusing nearly all of his attention on Winston for the 2016 point guard role so the Detroit native is clearly a high priority. Dwayne Stephens watched him play last week. He’s also a focus for John Beilien in a relatively weak in-state class, and Winston was there for UM’s close loss to Wisconsin. I would bet that he stays in state with a heated battle between the two Big Ten powerhouses.
- 2016 center Austin Davis continues to be recruited by both UM and MSU without an offer from either yet. He’s generally considered the top post man in the state and may receive an offer from both before the recruiting cycle is over.
- Dane Fife watched another regional 2016 center Joey Brunk out of central Indiana. Already carrying offers from MSU, Indiana, Iowa, and Butler, Brunk is one of the better centers in the Midwest.
- Our local schools are trying to pull SF Josh Langford out of Georgia. He’s interested and recently visited Beilein and Michigan for an unofficial. As a gesture of seriousness, Tom Izzo traveled down south and watched him personally earlier this month. Kansas is also heavily involved in recruiting this five-star.
- In some 2017 news, Coach Izzo was in Forrest Hills last night to see Xavier Tillman. Outside of having a mother who is an ace twitter user, Tillman is known for being a diverse player with a lot of room to develop. His basketball IQ is strong for his age as is his skill game. However, as a strong 6’6" post, he’s currently a man without a clear position at high D1. That doesn’t mean that big time schools are interested to watch his progress.
There’s a lot of targets for 2016. Though MSU has no one committed, we’re only 10 months away from signing day, and MSU has had players wrapped up much earlier than this (most of the 2012 class, for example). Things are quiet now and will accelerate this spring. Michigan State appears to have room at multiple positions and a Winston (PG), Bridges (F), and Brunk (C) class would be a big hit. All-everything forward Josh Jackson? I don’t see that happening, but we can dream.
As a last note, here’s a 2017 name to watch: Matt Beachler of Lowell. He’s lining up to be one of the best players in the class for the state of Michigan. Though he’s only 6’2" right now, he’s an excellent shooter and a developing talent. His only offer listed is from CMU but that could change quickly this spring.