Tom Izzo’s 2023 recruiting class has potentially turned into one for the ages and has earned the Hall of Fame coach plenty of praise for his efforts recently. The future looks bright for Michigan State men’s basketball.
While certainly big man Xavier Booker looks like the headliner of the group, the process started with a much smaller player, at least in stature. Jeremy Fears Jr. was the first to commit to the Spartans’ 2023 class, and while he might not get quite as much hype as Booker, the hyper athletic point guard figures to play a very prominent role once he sets foot on campus in East Lansing.
Jeremy Fears’ recruitment
It took a while for Fears recruiting process to take off, but when it did there were some really big names in the fold. The four star recruit truly entered the national picture with his transfer to La Lumiere in Indiana, a big time program for high school hoops and Jaren Jackson’s alma mater.
Fears played at Lumiere for two years, got plenty of national exposure in the process and actually planned to sign with Overtime Elite for his senior campaign. He still would have kept his college eligibility there, unlike some others who treat the Atlanta-based league that pays six figure sums to talented youngsters as a direct spring board to the professional ranks. Fears, though, backed out of his commitment to Overtime Elite and instead chose to return to his original high school, Joliet West in Illinois.
When his recruiting star started to rise, Fears received letters from some of the biggest programs the sport has to offer. Next to Michigan State there were offers from Kansas, Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Maryland.
The connection to the Spartans was always close, though, as Tom Izzo and company moved on him early. He attended the campus in East Lansing numerous times and committed to the Spartans on Jan. 6.
It was the start for a truly busy year for Fears, who not only ranked top-10 nationally with La Lumiere but was also chosen to represent the USA in the FIBA Under-17 World Championships in Malaga, Spain, during the summer. Fears helped Team USA claim the gold medal (Fears’ second after a U-16 title the year before) and played a vital part in the latter stages of the tournament, scoring 17 points in the semifinals against Lithuania and registering 18 points plus six assists in the final versus the host team from Spain. To top off his whirlwind season he also recently was voted Co-MVP of the highly regarded Pangos All-American-Camp.
Currently, Fears ranks as the No. 6 point guard and No. 34 overall player in the class of 2023, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Jeremy Fears’ player profile
Standing at 6-foot-1 and roughly around 170 pounds, Fears is rather small in stature and not overly impressive at first glance. While his size is clearly a factor for him and can cause some problems against bigger competition, there is something to be said for the elite athleticism he possesses that makes up for plenty of his physical shortcomings.
When he explodes in traffic and finishes with a thunderous slam over a couple of defenders, it is certainly evident that he has more than enough punch to get into the ring with the big boys. On top of being a great leaper, Fears possesses a tremendous tempo to his game, can change directions on a dime and, more often than not, is the quickest player on the court.
Fears needs these talents as he can struggle to really shake bigger defenders when he doesn’t get up to speed in time. While he has good handles and is an explosive penetrator, he can be overwhelmed from time to time against a long defense. He gets stuck in traffic and plays with a reckless abandon way too often, which results in careless turnovers.
Mentally, he has to learn how to better approach a one-on-one situation and pick his spots as a point guard between scoring and distributing. His shot isn’t one of his biggest strengths as his release is a bit on the slow and low side. There is potential in that area, though, and once his jumper comes around, it will make it that much harder for players to stay in front of Fears.
The future Spartan is a natural point guard and enjoys being a floor general. He is a more than willing passer, scans the court fairly well and will find the open man regularly. He isn’t there yet in terms of feel for the tempo of the game and will need some more maturing in that area, but it’s nothing that shouldn’t come with time and better coaching.
One of his biggest strength is probably his ability to change speeds and push the ball in transition. Once he figures out when and how to push the tempo, or when to step on the brakes, it will make him that much more dangerous. Another positive for him is his use of the left hand, which isn’t very common for players his age. Once inside, the creative playmaker can easily finish on the left side of the basket without presenting a shot blocker a clear target.
While he has a world of potential on offense, defensively is probably where Izzo fell in love with Fears in the first place. He is a willing, physical defender who can follow his opponent all over the court, and with a rather sizable wingspan, he will also match up with bigger players. He moves his feet tremendously, uses his arms all the time and finds a strong balance between holding his position and pressuring the ball.
Once a defensive possession is successful, Fears will turn defense into offense immediately. His only limitation on defense as of now would be his lack of strength, which at times makes it hard for him to fight over screens or through traffic. On top of his defensive ability, many people have praised Fears’ leadership. He is a constant communicator on the court, doesn’t back down from a challenge and he embraces the role of a point guard through and through.
Jeremy Fears’ potential role at Michigan State
The name Mateen Cleaves has been floating around in regards to Jeremy Fears quite a bit, mostly due to his defensive potential and the advanced leadership qualities he possesses. While such comparisons always have to be taken with a grain of salt, it is clear that Fears could be the type of player who could be Izzo’s brain out on the court.
He is fearless (no pun intended), will lead by example and vocally, plus he should develop his game to a point where he could end up being one of the most talented guys on the roster. Leading alone is one thing, but when you match it with big time ability (see Cassius Winston), then the whole thing gets really special.
Jeremy Fears, Jr. from Pangos this past weekend. The defense and court vision are a given, but the continued flashes of on ball creation into jumpers is what can elevate Fears’ game to the next level. A LOT to like about his growth this summer pic.twitter.com/RnvnJvERtn— DK (@SpartanHoops_DK) August 31, 2022
Early on, Fears’ path to playing time will most likely be defense. He isn’t the biggest point guard, which maybe makes it a bit harder to play him in two-point guard lineups, but there shouldn’t be a problem to play him next to bigger playmakers like Tre Holloman or Jaden Akins.
One thing that should excite everyone in East Lansing is Fears’ potential as a transition point guard. His speed is something to behold, and it would add that special dimension that Michigan State is always looking for on the break. His court vision is good, and over time, should only get better, which would make him a possibly perfect playmaker for what Izzo likes to do.
Throughout his stint at La Lumiere, the AAU circuit and his travels with Team USA, Fears has faced great competition, which should make the jump to college a bit easier for him. He also is used to playing with a bunch of capable scorers, further enhancing his playmaking instincts as a pass first point guard.
The Spartans’ history has been very clear in one regard: Izzo always loved to have big time point guard leading his team and his best teams usually had a top notch floor general to lead them into battle. Fears clearly has the potential to turn into that kind of player. His highlight reels might raise expectations a bit too high in the beginning, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great get in general.
Over time, and with the type of mindset he has, there is no reason to believe that Fears won’t turn into a typical multi-year Spartan contributor, and maybe even more.