The Michigan State Spartans basketball team should be in a good place for the 2019-2020 season, in a very good place actually. They built a foundation for future success with their most recent Final Four run and they return a lot of key pieces, including the reigning Big Ten Player Of The Year Cassius Winston. Tom Izzo and his coaching staff know though that even with everything in place on paper it will be incredibly hard to fulfill the ultimate goal of winning the program‘s third national championship. So they leave no stone unturned these days as they still got one open scholarship for the upcoming campaign. Let‘s take a look at the rumored possible additions, what they could bring to the table and how (or if) they might be able to give the Spartans the final push up the ladder on their way to cutting down the nets in 2020.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. (possible grad transfer from Virginia Tech)
The situation: Blackshear entered both the NBA Draft and the NCAA transfer panel after a successful redshirt junior season with the Hokies. Tech‘s head coach Buzz Williams has left the program for the head position at Texas A&M and now Blackshear is weighing up all his options, including a return to Blacksburg.
If he chooses to stay in college, the 6-10 power forward is the marquee prize of this year‘s transfer group. The 2nd team All ACC selection averaged 14.9 points (on 50.9% from the field) and 7.5 rebounds per game last season. He stepped it up in the NCAA Tournament, where he averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 boards per contest and almost carried his team to a Sweet Sixteen upset against Duke with 18 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists.
The competition for his services will be stiff if he doesn‘t go to the NBA. Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari already paid him a home visit and other powers like Gonzaga, Tennessee and Florida are in the mix. There are rumors that the Orlando native would enjoy playing closer to home, which would give the Gators a leg up on the other suitors.
MSU connection: Other than Tom Izzo and Buzz Williams being fairly close there isn‘t much of a connection to MSU or the Big Ten for that matter. Blackshear‘s father was a star at Stetson University in Florida and most schools interested in his son out of high school were from the South. The lone Big Ten team that offered him was Penn State.
Scouting report: Plain and simple, Blackshear at this point in his career is a pure stud on the college level. His numbers last season might not look overly spectacular but you have to consider that the Hokies faced premier competition and more importantly played at an excruciating slow pace. They actually were ranked lower in Adjusted Tempo on Kenpom than Wisconsin – go figure.
Blackshear has great size at 6-10, 250 and he can do everything you want from a modern day stretch four. He is a good but not spectacular athlete with very long arms yet he more than makes up for it with a variety of advanced skills. His ball handling is tremendous for a player his size and he has great court vision (2.4 assists per game). His strong midrange jumper and decent three pointer (33.3% on 63 attempts) make him a dangerous option from the outside and he excels in the pick and roll. You can give him the ball down low aswell as he has a fairly refined post up game that he pairs with good balance and mature instincts.
His solid defense, despite not being a great shot blocker, make him a complete player that is probably as well rounded as any player you can find on the college level these days.
Potenial role: Adding Blackshear next to Xavier Tillman would give MSU arguably the best starting frontcourt in the entire country. Both are extremely versatile, score in many different ways on offense and they would also be almost interchangable on defense. He could step right into the Kenny Goins role and add a huge amount of ability to it. The former Hokie is a mature, well spoken kid from what you can tell and he should fit right in with the rest of team. He also shouldn‘t have any problems adjusting to Tom Izzo‘s coaching style and hard practices. Buzz Williams is one of the most intese coaches in the country and probably preaches defense and fundamentals almost as rigorously as the Hall Of Famer from Iron Mountain.
Sam & Joey Hauser (possible transfers from Marquette)
The situation: Many people were surprised when the Hauser brothers announced their decision to transfer from Marquette in mid April. After all a lot of experts expected great things from the Golden Eagles in 2019-2020 with superstar guard Markus Howard returning. Rumors though have it that the Hausers didn‘t really feel comfortable with the offense revolving almost exclusively around Howard and him taking up the majority of the shots, just like he did in recent years.
Everything you hear points to them being a package deal and looking to go to the same school. Other than MSU the heaviest interest comes from Virginia, Iowa and their home state school Wisconsin.
As of right now UVA seems like the favorite in this race as head coach Tony Bennett already recruited both Hausers out of high school, he grew up in their hometown Stevens Point and after recent departures following the team‘s national championship could offer big roles in the future. The Hauser brothers would have to sit out a year though.
MSU connection: Tom Izzo and Dane Fife recruited Joey Hauser rather heavily when he was in high school. From what you hear the Hauser family has quite a fond opinion of Izzo and Michigan State.
Scouting report: First and foremost both brothers have one distinct elite level skill and that is their outside shooting. Both have shot over 40% from three point range last season and the older Sam actually is a 44.5% distance shooter for his career on an extremely high volume (553 attempts). Sam is the small forward version of the two and watching them you can tell that he is the more seasoned, more mature player. He is a deadly spot up shooter but can also rise up off the dribble. He likes to operate from the left elbow (also on isolations) but moves fairly well without the ball, too. He has great size for a perimeter position in college (6-8, 225) which enables him to play with his back to the basket some and also to just shoot over smaller defenders anywhere on the court. Defensively he is a hard worker, directs teammates and rotates smartly. Overall he is a very good, well rounded college player who can carry a decent scoring load for any team.
His younger brother Joey probably has more upside than Sam but as of right now, he clearly is trailing him in terms of college production and impact. Though he possesses great size for a stretch four (6-9, 230) he lacks the core strength and toughness that his older brother got during his longer college career. That makes it hard for him to really take advantage of his length against smaller players and it also hurts him defensively. His advanced skillset for a big man though is evident and he often flashes his future potential. He can handle the ball a little bit, is a very good passer, moves fairly well for his size and on top of everything he‘s already a good rebounder. Defensively he doesn‘t add much right now and constantly gets in trouble because of his lacking foot speed and lateral quickness.
Both players figure to function well on a team oriented setting and bring certain aspects to the table. Sam is more advanced and more ready, Joey might have more upside. Both are limited in what they can do athletically though.
Potential role: Sam Hauser would fit fairly well in a Spartans uniform tomorrow. He plays aggressive, is a decent defender, a hard worker and on top of everything can shoot the lights out. His three pointer is a true weapon at the college level. Both brothers could work very well in the pick and pop and they surely would find Izzo‘s sets to their liking. Atleast in Joey‘s case you have to wonder how he would hold up defensively. In general both brothers probably are looking to maximize their exposure and present themselves to the NBA while in college. If they would get that big a role at MSU (supposedly in 2020) would be a question mark.
N‘Faly Dante (2020 recruit with option of reclassifying to 2019)
The situation: Dante is a consensus five star prospect from Mali in the 2020 recruiting class and widely regarded as the number one center coming out that year. Due to his young age he would have the option to reclassifiy to 2019 and after Michigan State allegedly offered him a scholarship recently, speculations began of him helping the Spartans push for a national title next year.
The competition for him figures to be extremely stiff as LSU, Kentucky, Oregon and Kansas have already offered and other big names will most likely follow. He is very close with his fellow countryman Cheick Diallo, who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. Diallo went to Kansas but left after a season of eligibility issues and limited playing time.
MSU connection: Dante played for Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, the same school that also produced Tum Tum Nairn and Marvin Clark Jr. At Sunrise and for Mokan Elite on the AAU circuit he was teammates with recent MSU 2019 recruit Malik Hall. Both of them took numerous recruiting trips together.
Scouting report: N‘Faly Dante is a true physical specimen, standing at 6-11 and 230 pounds with a 7-6 wingspan. Many experts expect him to even grow a little more and add more muscle before he sets a foot on a college campus. He is athletic, runs the floor well and shows flashes of having a good feel for the game. In short, he possesses almost everything that makes scouts drool over a prospect like him. He is extremely young though and it shows as he can be foul prone and at times still moves a little awkwardly.
His biggest strength lies on the defensive end and as a paint protector. Dante uses his long arms to challenge almost every shot underneath the basket and provides his team with a menacing presence inside. The strong center is also a very good rebounder who does not only rely on his size to get boards. There is a certain intimidation factor facing a player like him and considering his talent, that should easily carry over to the next level.
Offensively he is still extremely raw, yet he has shown certain skills that could lead to bigger things in the future. Even though he is a bad free throw shooter percentage wise his form looks solid and on rare occasions he will actually pull up from midrange. He can hardly be moved off his spots in the post and uses his strength to back defenders down. As of right now his offensive game revolves mostly around putbacks and finishing dump offs from teammates with emphatic slams. When he has the ball he also has shown some potential as a post passer.
Potential role: Many people expect Dante to be a one and done prospect. Even if he might not be ready after one year of college his lifelong NBA dream and obvious physical tools might still push him to go pro early. For Michigan State he would certainly provide a menacing inside force with his size alone and give them a defensive rim protector from day one. With Xavier Tillman developing his outside shot both players could certainly fit well next to each other, even though individual expectations for Dante shouldn‘t be too high if he reclassifies due to his youth, lack of experience and overall raw skillset.
The process of finding someone for that last open 2019-2020 scholarship could drag on for quite a while. Blackshear would clearly be big prize but also seems fairly unlikely as he not only should get great feedback from the NBA but also figures to stay further south. The Hausers are an interesting case because they come as a package deal. That makes it hard for MSU to fit them in and even if they would be able to play immediately, they wouldn‘t add as big of a new dimension as Blackshear for example. Dante could be a wild card but it will be tough to lure him away from other big time programs. I‘m sure Tom Izzo is also looking at other players behind closed doors and I wouldn‘t be surprised if he adds a player nobody has set their sights on right now (former Cincinnati center Nysier Brooks or former Ohio State and Alabama center Daniel Giddens could be interesting options at the five). With potential national title aspirations and big time exposure during last season‘s run, East Lansing surely will be an attractive destination for a lot of players.
Either way, the offseason should be quite interesting for MSU basketball, even if they don‘t add anybody.