As we’ve been discussing in the comment thread to Joe’s post, Johnathan Williams III (J3) is taking a long look at MSU as a transfer destination. As soon as word came out last week that Williams might be leaving Missouri, our fans couldn’t help but speculate whether MSU would be in the mix again after finishing as a runner-up two years ago. There’s no doubt that MSU loved J3. He was one of the only players MSU pursued in the class of 2013 beyond Jabari Parker, and Coach Izzo was willing to head outside the normal recruiting radius to Tennessee to recruit him. SpartanTailgate.com is reporting that Williams has the Spartans in the forefront of his mind for a list of landing spots. Joe Rexrode confirmed later this afternoon this there is mutual interest between Williams III and MSU.
Johnathan Williams III had a strong career at Missouri. He gained an immediate role as a freshman playing 26 mpg and averaging 5.8 pts and 6.5 boards. As a sophomore, he improved drastically. You could say he "made the leap." He doubled his points to almost 12 per game and grabbed 7 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Attempting two of them per game, he made about 35% of his 3's, a respectable number for a 6’9" power forward that could to improve. Considering his season was hindered by a torn meniscus in the fall, this is particularly impressive. Combine that with a year to sit out, rest, and learn a new system, and this is a guy that any coach would want on his team.
Let’s talk about scholarships. Technically, MSU has one more remaining for the 2015 class. That’s been reserved for Caleb Swanigan or possibly Jamal Murray (who has yet to reclassify from 2016). There has been multiple years when a scholarship opened up late due to transfer or dismissal so you can’t rule out MSU being willing to take two more players. Coach Izzo has not accepted a public verbal before a scholarship was available in his tenure yet but that day might come before he retires. I don’t know for sure that J3 and Swanigan are an either/or for next season. First, I’m not aware of a reason why J3 would be able to bypass sitting out a transfer year. That clears up a logjam next year in the post. Once Matt Costello graduates, there’s plenty of room for the best of Schilling, Davis, Swanigan, Williams, and Clark to emerge as a deep, dominate core of (scholarship) post players. Coach Izzo has shown no hesitancy to stock up on talent, even redundant talent spread over classes. Just look at our wing situation.
The flip of this is the possibility that Swanigan isn’t coming to East Lansing, and the additional probability that Coach Izzo and staff already have a strong clue about their fate in the race. From comments to the Indystar, Caleb seems to have a pretty good idea where he wants to go even if his guardian Roosevelt Barnes is suggesting they might want to delay a decision further. If he’s not likely to choose MSU, bringing in J3 is a no-brainer. If Swanigan is still in play and thinking Green, there’s a tactical move to consider whether would both come to East Lansing or whether MSU would just as soon have an experienced player with Williams’ ability.
The good news is that there’s no hurry. This has time to sort itself out. Swanigan should (maybe?) make an announcement later this week and all his suitors will know the situation. Johnathan Williams III and his family sound like they want to take some visits before making a decision. MSU hosted Williams for an official visit two years ago so he is not a stranger to campus. Coach Izzo made it down to Tennessee to visit as well. There’s a history and relationship. This might, too, progress quickly.
It’s an exciting time and it’s cool to follow up such a great season with more possibilities and intrigue. The roster is in quality shape as it is, and MSU has a shot to land another outstanding post player for future success.