On the surface, it appears as though Tom Izzo has a recruiting crisis on his hands.
The Spartans missed out on yet another top-tier recruit in guard Jalen Brunson, who committed to Villanova University earlier in September. Brunson is the latest in a long line of missed five-star recruits in the past several years (recruiting rankings based on espn.com).
Maybe the reason for the sudden panic is the increased scrutiny and publicity of the recruiting process. Anyone who is anyone has a press conference these days to announce where they will play basketball for the foreseeable future. The Spartan hat has been left on the table on several occasions while the country watched (see Jabari Parker), and people are beginning to doubt the almighty Izzo.
A lack of star power is nothing new to Izzo. In the last two years, Michigan State has offered scholarships to nine five-star recruits, all of whom chose other schools. In fact, Izzo has only landed six five-star recruits since 2003 (Gary Harris in 2012, Branden Dawson in 2011, Adreian Payne in 2010, Delvon Roe in 2008, Marquise Gray in 2004 and Shannon Brown in 2003).
Coach Izzo has always been much better at developing players into superstars rather than wining and dining the flashy high school talent. Looking back at the most successful players of the past 10 years at MSU, virtually none of them were five-star recruits. Draymond Green arrived in East Lansing as a four-star recruit and so did Kalin Lucas in 2007. Keith Appling was overlooked for the five-star label, but he is currently on an NBA roster.
Izzo’s coaching style might not be conducive to superstars. He does not give preferential treatment and keeps players on a short leash discipline-wise (see Kenny Kaminski). Most of the players in the MSU program are built to last, which has been crucial to the team’s sustained success over the years. One-and-dones are not a part of Izzo’s ideology.
Now with Harris, Appling and Payne all departed, the cabinet seems a bit empty for this season. But this just gives Izzo the opportunity to groom and mold his young players so they can take the reins and lead the Spartans to the Promised Land. So while things seem less than ideal right now, do not fret, Izzo’s got it under control.