NCB On The Trail: Michigan State Spartans

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Shooting guard Javon Bess, who is heading to Michigan State, is a sleeper and should have a very good freshman season. Michigan State is losing point guard Keith Appling, and on Monday, shooting guard Gary Harris declared for the NBA draft. Bess will now have a chance to work his way into the rotation and be a factor next season.

Bess plays on the wing and possesses point-forward abilities, as he is long, athletic and constantly making plays with his high motor. Bess can be productive not only in statistical areas but also in other facets of the game that don't show up in the box score. He's a great teammate, he brings energy to the game, gives energy to his teammates and handles the ball against pressure in the full court.

When it comes to scoring, I like the way he attacks the rim, finishes and makes shots when he has time to set his feet. Versatility is what makes him special, as he is also a good passer who finds an open teammate quickly and unselfishly from the wing spot. He brings a many talents to the offensive end and probably could be equally effective on defense, where he shows good lateral quickness with long arms and nice anticipation in the passing lanes.

As his skills improve, he will contribute even more. Tom Izzo and his staff have a long and extremely successful history of winning -- and player development.
To return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Michigan State and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Travis Trice
G: Gary Harris
F: Branden Dawson
F: Denzel Valentine
C: Matt Costello


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With the departure of senior point guard Keith Appling, the Spartans will need a lot of help at that spot. Lourawls Nairn has the nickname Tum Tum and he brings leadership, quickness and elite speed to the position.

Nairn, the No. 73 prospect in the ESPN 100, is ideal for Tom Izzo because he attempts to execute the game plan and be an extension of the coach on the floor. He will give Izzo what he wants and provide the team what it needs to get the win. I love the way Nairn pushes the ball with speed to help create the fast break and he has the basketball savvy to run the Spartans playbook.

Michigan State also has Travis Trice returning, who stepped in at point guard when Appling was hurt. With Payne, Appling and, in all likelihood, Gary Harris leaving for the NBA draft, Nairn becomes a very important part of next year’s team.
The early signing period will officially come to an end in a matter of hours. Before the clock strikes midnight, we look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the past eight days.

Winners

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
Jeff Hinds/adidasDuke is a big winner with the addition of Jahlil Okafor, the nations top-ranked overall prospect,
Duke
When the nation’s top-ranked overall prospect and best point guard coordinate a dual announcement on national TV and flip over your hat, it’s a win. Duke might not officially have the top-ranked recruiting class in the country just yet, but there’s no denying it scored the biggest prize.


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This year you can easily make a case for at least a dozen or so teams to be in the final four and to win a National Championship, as so much talent is spread out this season with so many exciting freshmen.

With all the talk about how great the freshmen class is this year, it will be a team with experience that wins national title this season.

With that said, I am going with Michigan State, as head coach Tom Izzo has been to six final fours, which is remarkable in itself. His team has all the pieces, and at the key positions he has two seniors who keep improving, producing and should be all-Big Ten in PG Keith Appling and C Adreian Payne. Add to that a couple of athletic stars in Gary Harris and Brandon Dawson, plus the coaching of a future hall of fame coach in Izzo.

Before Michigan State wins it all they will be playing a loaded and big Arizona team in the championship game.
With seven ESPN 100 commitments in as many days, the last week has been incredibly busy on the recruiting wire, but the best could still be yet to come with Reid Travis, Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones all likely to make decisions in time to sign during the early signing period, which begins next week.

In case you missed any of last week’s headlines, here’s a rundown: Devin Robinson chose Florida over Indiana on Wednesday; later that night, big man Michael Humphrey picked Stanford over Arizona; Devin Booker started a busy Thursday by picking Kentucky over Missouri; James Blackmon Jr. pulled a surprise by spurning Kentucky to recommit to Indiana; Kevon Looney’s commitment to UCLA was equally surprising, with most predicting Duke, Florida or Tennessee; former UCLA pledge Trevon Bluiett picked Xavier over Butler and Michigan State on Friday; and Trey Lyles chose Kentucky over Louisville on Tuesday.

That flurry of activity, along with the upcoming announcements, has brought more clarity to a lot of top national programs. Here’s a look at some of the implications:


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Scout's take: SG Booker to Kentucky 

October, 31, 2013
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Five-star shooting guard Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) committed today to Kentucky over offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri.

Landing the third-best shooting guard in the Class of 2014 and the No. 18 overall player in the ESPN 100 is another huge get for the Wildcats. How will he fit?


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Roundtable: Recruiting rivalries to watch 

October, 29, 2013
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Duke vs. North Carolina. Kentucky vs. Louisville. Connecticut vs. Syracuse.

Some of the greatest rivalries in sports play out on the college basketball court, but this season marks a changing of the guard in many of those rivalries as conference realignment has done away with annual matchups like UConn vs. Syracuse while carving out the potential for new ones.

Rivalries also exist in recruiting, and while they’re often an extension of natural rivalries on the court, that isn’t always the case.

Jim Calhoun and John Calipari had a huge recruiting rivalry when they were the head coaches at UConn and UMass, respectively -- despite the fact their teams never played -- stemming from the recruitment of Marcus Camby.

So whether it’s an extension of a conference rivalry, a personality clash between high-profile coaches or even the consequence of a particularly contentious recruitment process, recruiting rivalries can take shape in a number of ways.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable recruiting rivalries, whether historic or up-and-coming based on the implications of realignment, as chosen by our RecruitingNation experts:

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#AskCoachB: Latest on Bluiett

October, 14, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



I spoke with Trevon's dad, Reynardo Bluiett, just a few days ago and he mentioned the following schools for his son: Butler, Memphis, Xavier, Michigan State and Purdue.

This past weekend, Bluiett (Indianapolis/Park Tudor) made an official visit to Memphis. A significant factor in the favor of Memphis is assistant coach Jason Gardner, who was Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1999 and became an All-American at Arizona. Butler also seems to be right in the thick of it, as they are the local school that is now in the Big East. Michigan State is in the hunt to go along with ESPN 100 PG Lourawls Nairn, who we like to distribute the ball. After speaking with his dad, it looks as though there is a good chance Bluiett will make his decision in the early signing period.

USA developmental team camp recap 

October, 6, 2013
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The USA Basketball Developmental National Team minicamp featured some of the nation's best high school talent representing the classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Head coach Don Showalter and his staff put the players through numerous intense and competitive drills, controlled scrimmages and game situations in this four-workout, two-day minicamp.

Note: ESPN 100 No. 1 overall player Jahlil Okafor didn't play on Day 1 after rolling his ankle during a one-on-one in the post drill.

Here are a few players who were impressive this weekend from the ESPN 100, 60 and 25 rankings.

ESPN 100 Standouts

Best Motor
Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity)
C, 6-foot-11, 225 pounds
Considering: Kansas, Ohio State, Texas, Duke, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville, Oklahoma State

Turner's talent and shot blocking is well-documented, but his consistent motor also makes the big fella special. Regardless of the outcome of the possession, Turner never stops playing. He runs, jumps and competes at a high level, which makes him stand out.


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#AskCoachB: Nairn fits Spartans

October, 1, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Paul Biancardi: Love the fit here as the Spartans love to push the ball on the fastbreak and that's what Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian Academy) does best. The ability to create tempo is so important to each team, and Michigan State pushes to score. In the half-court Nairn, who is called by his teammates Tum-Tum, will settle down his team and execute. He is best at getting into the paint, scoring and distributing. Man-to-man defense is one of many things that coach Tom Izzo's teams are known for, and Tum-Tum can really get up on the basketball, pressure and turn the ball-handler with his quickness and speed. As far as the future, Michigan State hopes to land a couple more recruits in the early signing period. Kevon Looney, Devin Booker, James Blackmon Jr. and Cliff Alexander are all on their wish list.
One of the fastest point guards in the country, Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian Academy) committed to Michigan State on Thursday, choosing the Spartans over Indiana, Minnesota and Oklahoma. He is ranked No. 72 in the ESPN 100, No. 1 in the state of Kansas, and we have him as the nation's No. 16 point guard.


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Notes: Cartwright could be double value 

September, 6, 2013
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This time of the year, there's always something brewing. From campus visits to the value of Stanford's newest pledge, we've dumped out the notebook into a nice, tidy column to catch you up.

Cartwright's value could be two-fold


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Where will top prospects end up? 

September, 5, 2013
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With only 13 five-star prospects left on the board, all it takes is a quick glance down their recruiting lists to come to a quick conclusion: The vast majority are being recruited by a long list of the same schools. So when it’s all said and done, some of those schools are going to be left out in the cold.

Remaining 5-Star Prospects
[+] EnlargeTyus Jones
AP Photo/Damen Jackson Point guard Tyus Jones has visited Baylor and will see Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), 6-10, 265, C: He and Tyus Jones will visit Kansas and Duke in October after seeing Baylor together last weekend. They’ll visit Kentucky on separate dates because of scheduling conflicts. Okafor is also scheduled to see Arizona independently.


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#AskCoachB: Where will Looney end up?

September, 4, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



I recently spoke with Kevon Looney about his recruiting and the recruiting process. Last week he came back from an official visit to Florida and has a great time with the staff and players.

"I like the vision the coach Donovan has for the program and how I will fit in," Looney said.

After watching individual workouts and being on campus for 48 hours, Looney also came away with his eyes wide open on how much time college players have to invest into each day. Next up this weekend he will be heading to Duke with visits scheduled to Tennessee (Sept. 20), UCLA and Michigan State in October. He also plans on making a second unofficial to Wisconsin. "I plan on taking all my visits," Looney said.

Looney currently stands as the No. 9-ranked player in the ESPN 100, a forward with a combination of great athletic ability, length and skill who can score from the high post and short wing area. He needs to engage himself more with his rebounding and not stand on the perimeter too long as well as continue to work on a his low post game to have a balanced scoring attack.

More importantly he is a good student and high character young man who will shine on any college campus. Look for him to make his college decision before the early signing period.

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