The Michigan State Spartans are one of the favorites for the 2013-14 season, and for good reason. The Spartans only lose center Derrick Nix to graduation and return every key contributor from their Sweet 16 campaign. Because of this, the onus was not on coach Tom Izzo to land an instant-impact recruiting class.
In fact, not much is going to be expected from this 2013 class at all. According to ESPN, this is the first time in over six years that Izzo did not add a single Top-100 recruit.
The departure of Nix obviously leaves a hole that the Spartans will have to fill. Right now, Michigan State will likely go with a few players rather than just one player in replacing Nix. We all saw flashes of brilliance from Matt Costello, and he will certainly get the first shot at Nix’s spot in the lineup. But, don’t be surprised if Kenny Kaminski has a big impact at the forward position.
Kaminski was a more heralded recruit than Costello coming out of high school, but missed all of his freshman season due to injury. The most exciting thing about Kaminski is his catch-and-shoot ability. Coming out of high school, he was described as one of the best catch-and-shoot players in his class. If the Spartans can put out a lineup with the four returning starters and Kaminski, they have a formidable lineup in which all five players can hit 3-pointers.
But enough about returnees. Let’s talk about the Spartans 2013 class, consisting entirely of Chicago-based players. Gavin Schilling, a 6-foot-9 center, was the first player to sign with the Spartans. Schilling is exactly what Izzo was looking for to replace Nix. He has a lot of muscle mass, soft hands, and has no aversion to contact — which will allow Izzo to play the physical brand of basketball he prefers.
The other player to sign was shooting guard Alvin Ellis. Ellis had originally committed to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but decommitted after the coaching change. With all the talent Michigan State has at the guard position, it is difficult to imagine Ellis getting much playing time his freshman year.
But what Ellis lacks in talent, he makes up for in smarts and toughness. Ellis’ basketball IQ is off the charts, and he is knowledgeable and versatile enough to play all three perimeter positions. Ellis needs to develop a consistent jumper, but already is more than adept at driving to the hoop and finishing through contact. He should be a solid contributor for at least two seasons of his career.
Will these recruits push Michigan State over the top? Of course not. But with everyone except Nix returning, Izzo has to be happy about his squad no matter what.
Brian Fox is a Big 10 Basketball Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @RealBrianFox