Michigan State Basketball: How Harris and Forbes Impact the Future

Brad Almquist@bquist13Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

West Virginia's Eron Harris (10) looks to pass during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Southern, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 101-68.  (AP Photo/Andrew Ferguson)
Andrew Ferguson/Associated Press

The arrivals of transfers Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes greatly boost the offensive firepower for Michigan State, a team devoid of dangerous scorers.

Looking ahead, it is important to analyze the future impact that these acquisitions will have for Tom Izzo both on the court and recruiting front.

The first to officially announce his decision to transfer was Harris, the high-scoring two-guard from West Virginia. This announcement immediately supplied MSU with a proven scorer at the collegiate level. And for a squad that just lost another Harris—Gary, who is projected to land somewhere in the early-to-mid first round in the upcoming NBA Draft—acquiring the ex-Mountaineer was instrumental.

Izzo was certainly "ecstatic."

As a sophomore, Harris was outstanding, averaging 17.2 points per contest on 42.2 percent shooting behind the arc. That number is particularly impressive when considering that he shot more three-pointers than shots inside the arc.

His accuracy from long distance is clearly his most obvious strength, but he has enough athletic ability to play above the rim as well. Harris also shoots an outstanding 85.6 percent from the charity stripe.

The 6’3” scorer is one of the most prolific shooters in the nation.  Harris finished fourth in the conference for scoring in just his second year and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection.

Harris’ arrival in East Lansing will be an exciting one. Unfortunately for MSU, he will have to sit for the 2014-15 season due to transfer regulations and will resume his two years of eligibility beginning in the 2015-16 campaign.

MSU’s next high-profile transfer, Forbes, finds himself in the same situation.

The ex-Viking announced his decision to join the Spartans on June 13. Forbes posted two outstanding years at Cleveland State, amassing more than 900 points over his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Now, the Lansing native will return back to his home state, while providing the Spartans with another deadly outside shooter in the process.

Forbes' and Harris’ 2013-14 numbers are nearly identical, as both transfers shot roughly 43 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line. Forbes shot 83 percent from the charity stripe, compared to Harris’ 86 percent, and the differential for their scoring averages is only 1.6 points.

It’s a safe assumption that outside shooting won’t be an issue for MSU in a couple years.

Forbes and Harris can both light it up, and possessing two deadly shooters who can score in a multitude of ways is a rarity for any college team.

A common issue for a squad with multiple high-profile transfers is the prolonged adjustment it takes for the players to familiarize themselves with their teammates’ playing styles. But Forbes likely won’t have as much of an issue because he will join his high school teammate and lifelong friend Denzel Valentine in the backcourt.

Together, the pair fueled Sexton High School to two state titles. Izzo hopes similar success will translate in East Lansing.

These two acquisitions are timely and much needed. In addition to State’s top three scorers leaving East Lansing, Branden Dawson, who will likely assume a considerable portion of the scoring responsibilities in 2014-15, will graduate after this season.

While plenty of positives come from gaining the talents of these transfers, the recruiting potential for a loaded 2015 class is now greatly reduced.

Initially, it appeared that Montaque Gill-Caesar, Eric Davis and Caleb Swanigan could all become Spartans in 2015. All three highly touted recruits have expressed serious interest.

However, with Izzo recently securing Kyle Ahrens from the 2015 class, along with the two transfers and Deyonta Davis, four of the five available recruiting offers have already been taken. Ahrens is an underrated guard from Versailles, Ohio, and Izzo was clearly excited to gain his services, but his commitment disables one of those top flight recruits from joining the Spartans.

Also, Forbes and Harris will have only two years of eligibility left. It’s difficult to decipher if having two tremendous college players for only two years beats having upcoming recruits for potentially all four years.

Either way, two of those spots available to this talented 2015 class vanished once Forbes and Harris transferred.

Now, the question looms: Which recruit on Izzo’s list is most important to secure for 2015?

That may be impossible to answer.

Davis is a polished combo guard, Gill-Caesar is a physically imposing wing player and Swanigan is a monster who lives in the paint. All three recruits would instantaneously improve this Michigan State squad, just all in distinct ways.

Because State acquired Forbes and Harris, two marksmen who can change games with their shooting, the need for Eric Davis is diminished. He can also play point guard, but Izzo already has his floor general of the future in Lourawls Nairn.

So what about Gill-Caesar? He dominates games with his athleticism and quickness on the wing. While he can hit the open jumper, he relies mostly on slashing and driving to the rim.

Sparty doesn’t have anyone with that type of skillset.

Valentine will likely start as Izzo’s 3-guard for the next two seasons, though he possesses a completely different offensive repertoire than Gill-Caesar. Still, with that position occupied and the rest of the backcourt in tremendous shape for the next few years, garnering Gill-Caesar is no longer as imperative as it once was.

The position that won’t be securely occupied in 2015 is the forward spot that Dawson leaves behind. Swanigan is a 275-pound specimen who thrives in the paint by sealing defenders and finishing around the hoop. The 5-star power forward’s tenacity and raw strength would provide Izzo with a physical beast in the post, something he hasn’t had in several years.

Swanigan must be Izzo’s top target in the 2015 class. There is a greater need for a dominant post man than a wing or combo guard. Michigan State’s backcourt of Nairn, Forbes, Harris, Ahrens and Valentine is complete and loaded with talent.

The frontcourt’s depth is meager. Deyonta Davis, who is shooting up the national recruiting ranks, has a chance to start as a freshman. He and Swanigan are AAU teammates, which should add additional incentive for Izzo to secure Swanigan.

Acquiring any of the three talented recruits would boost MSU’s firepower, but Swanigan is the most needed out of the group.

Lastly, securing Harris and Forbes now diminishes the need for Ahrens. While those three players don’t have identical skill sets, the main threat that they pose is the ability to shoot from the perimeter.

Harris' and Forbes’ playing styles are eerily similar, and both players stand at 6’3”. Ahrens is 6’5” and an accurate outside shooter with the ability to score inside the arc as well.

Now, Izzo has three guys who play the same position, all of whom find time on the floor for the same reason. A team can never have enough shooters, but the acquisition of Ahrens now seems less important than it initially did, especially because there is only one scholarship spot left to fill.

Despite the overload of two-guards on the roster and limited remaining potential for an already solid 2015 class, more positives stem from this situation than negatives. In quick succession, Izzo has landed two dynamic scorers who have proven their talents on the collegiate stage.

Harris and Forbes will thrive alongside each other and create one of the country’s best shooting backcourts in 2015 and on. Combine those two weapons with Nairn and a potentially dangerous 2015 recruiting class, and the outlook is bright in East Lansing.


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