The McDonald’s All-American Game (7pm EST, ESPN2) is the highest honor for High School Basketball players. Every year the rosters are littered with players committed to Blue Blood programs like Duke and Kentucky, and 2017 is no different, with six players committed to those two schools alone.
Michigan State has had their fair share of recent representation, as well. Since 2011, Miles Bridges, Deyonta Davis, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris and Josh Langford have all been selected to the team.
This year, as many as three future Spartans are taking part in the festivities. One — Jaren Jackson Jr — is already locked and loaded, but two other undecided targets loom large. All three are on the West team, so we’ll get a taste for how they play together tonight.
If they decide to combine their powers and take the show to East Lansing, they could take next year’s team from very good to insanely good.
F Jaren Jackson, Jr. — 5 Stars (#10 Overall Prospect per Rivals)
At this point, most who follow the world of basketball recruiting are familiar with Jackson. The son of former NBA players Jaren Jackson Sr has been committed to Michigan State since September of 2016 and risen all the way up to #10 in the Rivals 150.
Jackson adds height and length to a Michigan State frontcourt that desperately needs it. His size (6’10”) and length could make him into an elite weakside shot blocker and his surprising athleticism allows him to switch to opposing wings on the perimeter.
Offensively, he has a three-point shot and improving post game that will get him on the floor from day one. He has the potential to have a Miles Bridges/Nick Ward type impact next season.
G/F Brian Bowen — 5 Stars (#19 Overall Prospect per Rivals)
CONSIDERING: Michigan State, Arizona, Creighton, NC State, Texas
Bowen has a story similar to many former recruits MSU has missed out on. He’s been recruited by Tom Izzo for years, he’s extremely comfortable with the university and from the outside looking in, seems like a shoo-in. Hell, he’s even related to former Spartan Jason Richardson. How could he not become a Spartan?
Well, like those previous recruitments, this one is going to come down to the wire and could easily sway away from MSU. Bowen has an impressive list of suitors, but most seem to think this is an MSU-Arizona battle, with the recent edge pointing to the Wildcats.
Bowen (6’7” 195) plays on the wing and his main concern seems to be minutes, which make his two perceived finalists a bit interesting. In Arizona’s case, there are several wings — Kadeem Allen, Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier — all of whom figure to be returning to the desert and would severely cut into Bowen’s time. The same is true at MSU, but in much smaller numbers.
The issue appears to be Bridges. If he were to return, Bowen would be forced to come off the bench, but would surely get a large chunk of minutes and be the primary scorer on the second unit. If Bridges were to go pro, there’s a pretty solid chance Bowen could come in and start early on, if not right away. Either way, it would appear there are more minutes to be had at MSU, it’s just a matter of where Bowen feels more comfortable.
Bowen prides himself as a talented scorer, which is something the Spartans could use, regardless of whether Miles Bridges returns or not. He has a silky jumper and his long arms could turn him into a strong defender, as well. He’ll look to show off improved strength and a well-rounded offensive skill set tonight.
C Brandon McCoy — 5 Stars (#15 Overall Prospect per Rivals)
CONSIDERING: Michigan State, Arizona, Oregon, Purdue, San Diego St, UNLV
In case you’ve been living under a rock, you know MSU could use an injection of size in their frontcourt. A year after being ravaged by injury and ending up with only one player 6’8” or taller, Izzo is out beating the trail for some extra bigs to help make sure that never happens again. He’s already secured commitments from the aforementioned Jackson and four star 6’8” forward Xavier Tillman, but is shooting for the stars with McCoy.
The 6’11” big man is everything you could ask for in a center. He’s a tremendous athlete with long arms who looks like a dynamite shot blocker in the making. He’s also a strong rim runner with a developing post game.
Working in MSU’s favor is the fact that his game meshes perfectly with Jackson’s. Offensively, Jackson’s perimeter game balances out McCoy’s more traditional center presence, and on defense they’d be as devastating a combination of shot blockers as there is in the country.
Also, serendipitously, the two just so happen to be roommates this week in Chicago. Jackson has been pretty vocal about trying to get McCoy to join him in East Lansing and being in such close quarters can’t hurt.
At this point, however, Oregon is the favorite. McCoy is originally from Chicago, but moved out to San Diego a few years ago, which is why there is an apparent west coast flavor to the schools he is considering. It’s hard to know which way this will end up going (he grew up a fan of MSU while in Chicago) but either way, look for him to throw down some big time dunks this evening.