Going to Michigan State I am so pumped for the team we bring out this year. It's going to be a great Big Ten season and season overall with aspirations of winning a 3rd National title and reaching Izzo's 7th(?) final four in the green and white. That being said I've come here to go through each player and describe what they need to do to have a successful season and bring back a National Championship trophy back to East Lansing.
Keith Appling... Sr. (PG/SG) 6"1'- A combo guard in every sense. Quick, athletic and can really, really defend other point guards. Sometimes watching him play you forget about how athletic he is and he'll make a play that reminds you why he was so coveted as a 4* recruit coming out of high school. This will be his 3rd year at the reigns of the point guard position and the word is from the summer that he is finally becoming more of a true point guard. Last year he only averaged 3.3 apg and as a lead guard that is incredibly low. He needs to be much better next year in order for this team to reach it's potential. He should not be the leading shot taker on a team with Gary Harris and Adreian Payne on it. he needs to average somewhere around 12 ppg and 6 apg for this team to reach it's potential all while locking up the opposing team's point guard.
Gary Harris... Soph. (SG) 6"4'- Everybody knows this guy. Strong and athletic with a smooth release that is just so effortless and looks like it's going in every time. Quite the defender as well. To be honest I don't even think I got the chance to see the real Gary Harris last year because of how often he had shoulder injuries. He's tough as nails though for playing through all of them. Will likely be a top 15 pick in next years draft but he needs to show he can be healthy all of next year and show more of an in between game despite having such a beautiful outside stroke. Gaining strength in those shoulders is a must and the word is he has been doing that and working on his ball-handling in the offseason. Look for him to put up around 15 ppg on good percentages while also locking up the opposing player.
Branden Dawson... Jr (SF) 6"6'- Before he tore his ACL his freshman year I was looking forward to seeing the new Branden Dawson in his sophomore year with a revamped shot and better handles while being a beast in the open court and dunking everything in sight. This is his first summer to work on his game and I see him being a much improved shooter next year. He's going to be the glue guy on this team, doing the nitty gritty to help the team get the win. Will still be a beast in transition and on the offensive boards. Hopefully watches some film so he isn't so lackadaisical on defense like he was last year at times. Such an impressive athlete with and NBA ready frame. He was our lockdown defender his freshman year and then made the Adrian Peterson-like recovery to be back last year in about 7 months time. Such a freak. Look for him to average around 10 and 6.5 next year at around 55% shooting.
Adreian Payne... Sr (PF/C) 6"10'- Showed all the talent that made him a 5* recruit coming out of high school in the last half of last season. Has range and fluidity that make him a match up nightmare for 4s and 5s at the college level. Great length and athleticism for either frontcourt position at the NBA level as well. Hopefully since he figured it out so he will be consistent next year. I look for him to average around 14 ppg and 9 rpg next year with the possibility of doing even better. Could be a possible darkhorse candidate for the NCAA Player of the year award.
Matt Costello... Soph. (C) 6"9'- Our best recruit from last years class. Gritty, hard-nosed defender with good enough length and quickness to guard both 4s and 5s at this level. Will need to be able to stay on the floor because he does foul too much. We will be a much better defensive and transition team this year because of him being so quick from end to end and in the paint. Derrick Nix really slowed us down with his lack of footspeed. Needs to find his bread and butter in the post and work on a little jumper so he isnt such a liability. If he can average around 5 ppg and 6 rpg with around a block that'll do the job.
Key Bench Players..
Denzel Valentine.. Soph. (PG/SG/SF) 6"5'- My favorite player on the team. The definition of versatile. Played all 3 perimeter positions and even some small ball 4 due to his long wingspan (I'd guess it's around 6"10'). Has AMAZING court vision---the best passer on the team---per Izzo. Izzo has compared his passing to the likes of the great Magic Johnson himself. Needs to cut down on turnovers however and, despite being a decent athlete, needs to cut down on his weight and gain strength to maximize his speed and athleticism. His shot is a work in progress right now but might not be as bad as it seems percentage wise because he had a cold spell of 0/16 from long distance to close out the season. Could start a lot of games this season like last year due to the amount of injuries we had last year. He averaged 5/4.1/2.4 last year and played a lot of back up point guard when trice was out. Might be an NBA prospect in due time. Next year I could see him at 6.3/4.5/ and 3.5 being the 6th man off the bench and starting a couple games due to injuries. Gonna be a legend in East Lansing when it's all said and done--the perimeter version of draymond green.
Travis Trice... Jr. (PG) 6"0'- Quick True PG with a great shot who has a habit of getting injured. Hopefully will be healthy this year and can handle backup duties while also playing with Keith Appling at the 2.
Alex Gauna... RS Jr. (PF) 6"9'- could be fighting with Costello for the starting C spot but I feel that he's better off the bench since he's not much of a defender right now. Has a nice jumper but is limited defensively. Hopefully he puts it all together this year.
Kenny Kaminski... RS Fr. (PF) 6"7'- Looks to get some minutes to stretch the floor as a stretch 4. Was out last year due to a football injury in high school. Is rumored to be the best shooter on the team. Will find minutes because of that.
Russell Byrd.. RS Jr (SG/SF/PF) 6"7'- Lights out shooter when he has confidence. That's his problem. Could be in rotation if he gets it.
Alvin Ellis III.. FR (SG/PG) 6"4'- Late get for Izzo in class of 2013. 3* recruit. Was committed to Minnesota before Tubby was fired. Likely a redshirt candidate but might find his way in the rotation if he can shoot 40% like he did in high school.
Gavin Schilling FR (PF/C) 6"9'- tough, athletic, hard-nosed post player. Another 3* recruit. Supposedly raw on offense but in high school he played on Findlay Prep with a bunch of other talent so his skillset might have seemed limited.. Is impressing in workouts and might crack the rotation if there's an injury of some sort. Another redshirt candidate.
So as you can see, there's a lot of versatility here for Izzo to work with. One can see why I might be excited to see how this team unfolds and all the growth of some of the players in the program. I cant wait for the Kentucky/MSU game as it might be one of the best games of the complete college season. Thoughts on anybody I mentioned or my writing itself? Thanks for reading!
When I saw the subject of this post I was gonna comment about how much I like Valentine and his versatility but you already did a great job with that. Like you said I wouldn't be surprised if he developed into a Draymond Green type player down the road for the Spartans. Only thing is I thought he would start over Costello. A front court with him Dawson and Payne should be able to match up with most other front courts in the country. Anyways, good post and I think MSU is a Final Four caliber team.
Thanks! Denzel will be starting at times this season, I'm sure of it. But I know that Izzo wants to keep Payne at the 4 like he played all of last year. Denzel will be a key to the team though that's for sure. Could be the future at the 1 for the team after Appling leaves, also.
Every year I doubt Michigan St. and every year they surprise me. So I'm already predicting at least sweet 16 for this team. Never count out Izzo.
The Spartans will actually run the lineup of appling, harris, valentine, dawson and payne. guarantee it. that is an athletic squad
Tom Izzo is a great coach. He doesn't get the top five recruits consistently like Calipari, but he maximizes the potential of the players he gets. They lost to Duke last year in the Sweet Sixteen, but this team definitely has final four and national championship potential. The Breslin Center will be rocking this year.
They do look stacked. Plus, it is the kind of hard nosed, board crashing team that really lets Izzo do his best work. I know the Costello kid and his family. He will be a lot better this year. The crowd is gonna like the way he runs the floor and finishes for a big guy.
I'm anxious to see both Valentines and Harris' progression. They both have great potential. Also, Nix was a handful down low when he caught the ball on the block and was also a willing passer. Ya he was slow, but who will make up for his presence? I'm not so sure about Costello. Anyway, we look to be an intimidating team next year and anything less than a final 4 will be a disappointment. GO GREEN