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Michigan State Basketball Recruiting: Prioritizing Spartans' Top 2015 Targets

Brad AlmquistFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Michigan State Basketball Recruiting: Prioritizing Spartans' Top 2015 Targets

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Michigan State has already secured two verbal commitments from the 2015 class in Deyonta Davis and Kyle Ahrens. However, due to the acquisitions of a couple of talented transfers, it retains only one additional offer to present to the class. Thus, prioritizing which players to target on Tom Izzo’s recruiting list is imperative.

    Currently, he is orchestrating a brilliant managerial offseason.  

    Deyonta Davis, initially a relatively unknown post player from Muskegon, Michigan, has quickly blossomed into one of the most highly regarded recruits in the country. His newfound 4-star status validates that.

    Meanwhile, Kyle Ahrens, another blue-chip recruit, adds another deadly shooter to the rotation. Izzo’s reaction to Ahrens’ commitment denotes the head coach’s excitement to gain his skills.

    So who is the recruit worth pursuing hardest for the final slot?

    I analyzed Izzo’s targets according to talent level, how their abilities complement MSU’s roster and the potential of the player to thrive within State’s system.

    Read on to find out.

Caleb Swanigan

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    After reclassifying and now emerging as one of the premier big men in the 2015 class, Caleb Swanigan has interested numerous suitors across the country. The 6’8” monster is a rare commodity in today’s basketball, as Swanigan dominates games with strength and skill in the paint.

    Izzo can’t afford to let this one slip.

    There is suddenly an overload of 2-guards in East Lansing, after transfers Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes joined the Spartans last month. Just days before, Izzo secured Kyle Ahrens from Versailles, Ohio, who is another shooting guard.

    Backcourt depth or skill isn’t an issue. Lourawls Nairn is molding into a Mateen Cleaves-type point guard and Denzel Valentine has taken the stranglehold of the team under his recent captainship. Add those existing pieces to the three acquisitions that recently occurred, and that five-man rotation will emerge as one of the most talented in the country.

    Alvin Ellis is another improving guard as well. Again, guard play will be at a high level upon the 2015 class’ arrival, so Izzo must focus his attention to future frontcourt contributors.

    Swanigan won’t just contribute, though. The physically imposing power forward already boasts a more complete skill set than any of Sparty’s current big men.

    He uses his robust frame to seal defenders under the hoop. Swanigan has fantastic touch around the rim, and his impressive mid-range game makes him a tough cover.

    Currently, Branden Dawson occupies one forward slot. However, he will graduate after MSU’s 2014-15 campaign, and his counterparts haven’t exactly proved themselves as consistent contributors.

    Matt Costello provided brief glimpses of potential and Gavin Schilling needs to work on his footwork and overall offensive package. Neither guy has emerged as a front-runner for the starting spot aside from Dawson.

    That's where Swanigan comes in. The Fort Wayne, Indiana, product is already college-ready with his diverse skill set and daunting offensive build. His AAU teammate, Deyonta Davis, is already committed and has a realistic chance to start as a freshman in 2015.

    The duo could form a fortifying frontcourt, as the AAU circuit continues to witness already. Swanigan is the most important recruit remaining in Izzo’s sights because of his developed skills coinciding with MSU’s lack of depth at the forward slots.

    According to ESPN's rankings, Swanigan is the top rated out of Izzo's remaining targets. He is also the best fit.

Montaque Gill-Caesar

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    Montaque Gill-Caesar is a can’t-miss prospect for any team interested. The 6’5” wing is one of the more athletically gifted players in the class and a constant mismatch for the opposition.

    He is quick enough to blow by larger opponents and strong enough to post up against smaller ones. Gill-Caesar thrives by entering the lane and exploding to the rim.

    His game is distinctly different from Denzel Valentine’s, the current starter for MSU at the same spot. Valentine is as multi-faceted as any player in the country. His ability to make every pass, knock down open jumpers and rebound at a fantastic rate is a rarity for a backcourt player.

    Meanwhile, Gill-Caesar is more of a pure scorer. He is accurate from deep once his feet are set, which makes him a nearly impossible cover for opponents because of his athleticism.

    He has a NBA body, and with some maturation and fine-tuning to his overall skill set, a professional game as well. However, Izzo’s need for a wing player is much smaller than it is for a post presence.

    Who knows? Valentine may emerge as one of the premier wings in the country and decide to depart for the NBA one year before graduating. That sequence would bolster the need for Gill-Caesar at the 3 spot.

    But Valentine will likely remain in East Lansing throughout his four years.

    Izzo would love to gain Gill-Caesar’s services, but the team’s biggest weakness is in the talent of the frontcourt. Acquiring a developed post player, like Caleb Swanigan, is much more of a necessity.

Eric Davis

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    Eric Davis is another local product whose versatility to play either the point or shooting guard positions will earn him immediate playing time wherever he chooses to attend. Davis has been a target of Izzo's for several months for a reason.

    He allows for flexibility within the lineup and provides dynamic playmaking on the perimeter. At 6'3", he can shoot over opponents at the point guard slot.

    But he is a bit undersized as a 2-guard. However, his prolific shooting compensates for the inch or two.
    Davis can light it up from anywhere and has a soft touch around the rim.

    He also excels with the ball in his hands in transition opportunities, leading the break and facilitating for teammates. If it weren't for his skinny frame, Davis would be one of the most college-ready recruits in the class.

    But 165 pounds is slightly worrisome. He needs to add muscle so he isn't a liability when stronger opponents guard him.

    So where does he fit within MSU's situation?

    Again, the backcourt is loaded moving forward. Lourawls Nairn continues to be collectively lauded for his nonstop effort, perpetual passion and contagious leadership.

    He immediately fills the point guard spot. Then there is the shooting guard position, which is overly occupied.

    So while Davis presents himself as a rare commodity because of his ability to play multiple positions, Michigan State doesn't really need a player with his skill set.

Jalen Brunson

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    Once a likely option for Jalen Brunson, Michigan State appears to have slipped in the top point guard's top schools. According to 247sports.com's expert rankings, Brunson may end up as a Temple Owl.

    The 22nd-ranked recruit in the country is arguably the best natural scorer in the class, exemplified by his 56-point outburst in the state semifinals.

    Talk about cold-blooded.

    But like Davis, he is another combo guard with similar skills. Brunson is a better and more versatile scorer, while Davis probably sees the court slightly better. Both guys are high-profile prospects, but neither seems to transition into MSU's lineup swimmingly.

    At the shooting guard slot in 2015 will be Eron Harris, Bryn Forbes, Kyle Ahrens and Alvin Ellis, all of whom are capable of playing pivotal minutes for Tom Izzo. Regardless of Brunson's reputation or skill set, that slot is just too occupied for Izzo to use his last recruiting spot on.

    Brunson likely won't land in East Lansing, and although he would bolster the offensive production of any team, that probably isn't a bad thing.

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