Two-way street when go­ing for de­com­mits

Muskegon’s ath­lete Jef­fer­son is on Spar­tans’ radar

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MATT CHARBONEAU The Detroit News

East Lans­ing — Not sur­pris­ingly, Nick Ward was a hot topic in this week’s Michi­gan State mailbag.

Ward, a sopho­more cen­ter, played one min­utes, 11 sec­onds in the sec­ond half of Michi­gan State’s vic­tory at Rutgers on Tues­day, and was seen sit­ting qui­etly on the bench most of that time, even as his team­mates were stand­ing and cheer­ing.

He and coach Tom Izzo tried to dif­fuse it af­ter the game, say­ing ev­ery­thing was fine, how­ever, the fans don’t seem con­vinced.

We hit that along with some foot­ball re­cruit­ing and whether or not the Spar­tans can go un­beaten in bas­ket­ball this sea­son in a clearly weak Big Ten.

Ques­tion. MSU have any de­sire or chance to look at the re­cruits who are bail­ing the schools who changed coaches? @bg8675309

An­swer. Let’s be clear on this one — Michi­gan State would al­ways be in­ter­ested, though as al­ways, it’s a two-way street.

There have been plenty of coach­ing changes al­ready and not ev­ery schools has found a re­place­ment yet, so it’s still sort of shak­ing out, though with early sign­ing date on Dec. 20, there isn’t a lot of time if any of the play­ers think­ing of flip­ping want to en­roll early.

One of the top names on the list for the Spar­tans is Muskegon dual-threat quar­ter­back La’Dar­ius Jef­fer­son. Tech­ni­cally he de­com­mit­ted from Cen­tral Florida be­fore Scott Frost de­cided to take the head coach­ing job at Ne­braska, but we’ll put him in here any­way. Michi­gan State coach Mark Dan­to­nio and co-de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Tres­sel had an in-home visit with Jef­fer­son this week, and the Spar­tans are seen as com­pet­ing pri­mar­ily with In­di­ana.

The Hoosiers have said they want Jef­fer­son as a quar­ter­back while MSU has been talk­ing about run­ning back for Jef­fer­son with po­ten­tially get­ting a shot at quar­ter­back.

One other name to keep an eye on is four-star ath­lete Braden Lenzy. He’s de­com­mit­ted from Ore­gon now that coach Wil­lie Tag­gart has left for Florida State. He had an of­fer from Michi­gan State and has vis­ited, but he was once com­mit­ted to Notre Dame, which means the Ir­ish could fig­ure in with Lenzy.

Q. Not re­ally a ques­tion, I guess, but Nick Ward is an im­por­tant piece of this team. Based on the tweets from his mom and the com­ments from him, I hope we can get his head back in this thing. We don’t need a frac­tured locker room. @matt7738

A. This, ob­vi­ously, was a pop­u­lar topic this week as @murph196 also won­dered if there was a happy medium be­tween “trust Izzo” and “Free nick Ward?” If there is a happy medium, I think we’re still a long way from find­ing it judg­ing from the fan feed­back I’ve re­ceived. It seems to be split pretty evenly.

As for Ward’s mom pop­ping off on Twit­ter, I’m not sure where that plays into this. It’s not like she’d be the first par­ent to be frus­trated with their kid’s role, but few make it pub­lic like that.

My gut tells me, as well as be­ing around these guys a de­cent amount dat­ing back to next year, is that it won’t lead to an is­sue in the locker room. There is still some sort of dis­con­nect be­tween the staff and Ward be­cause when you ask Ward, he be­lieves he’s play­ing good de­fense by ask­ing who has scored on him.

How­ever, he’s also ad­mit­ted he’s strug­gled on ball screens. It’s a tough po­si­tion con­sid­er­ing how ef­fi­cient Ward is of­fen­sively while lack­ing any con­sis­tency on de­fense. Of course, the op­po­site can be said for Gavin Schilling, whose strength is on de­fense.

That’s all my way of say­ing we’ll have to see, but I’d say the safe bet is to trust in Izzo and that this will even­tu­ally be looked at as just a rough patch in an oth­er­wise solid sea­son.

Q. Given how weak the Big Ten looks, do you see the team los­ing more than 3 games the rest of the way?@ TheRealK­zoury

A. Be­fore the sea­son I thought Michi­gan State would lose at least a cou­ple of games con­sid­er­ing it plays both Min­nesota and Pur­due on the road. But now I’m wondering if there’s a team that can chal­lenge the Spar­tans. I still think the Go­phers and Boil­er­mak­ers have the play­ers to do so, but to this point, they haven’t shown it.

I also be­lieve Mary­land, Michi­gan, Penn State and North­west­ern will get bet­ter.

And, let’s be honest, Michi­gan State showed on Tues­day it can still de­liver a clunker, and the fact it was play­ing a Rutgers team that couldn’t shoot straight was huge. Play that way against any of the teams men­tioned and it re­sults in a loss.

So, lose more than three? I say no way.

Go un­beaten in the Big Ten? Prob­a­bly not.

Q. Heard any­thing on Izzo/ staff pos­si­bly pur­su­ing Brian Bowen since he won't be play­ing at Louisville? Know Izzo was on him in re­cruit­ing process. @nd_joyce

A. How do I put this po­litely? No chance. Look, Michi­gan State had pretty well backed off re­cruit­ing Bowen with any sort of sig­nif­i­cance well be­fore he made his com­mit­ment to Louisville.

And, quite frankly, I’m not sure too many teams would be lin­ing up to bring in a player that is at the cen­ter of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, one that al­leges Adi­das fun­neled $100,000 to an un­named player, later iden­ti­fied as Bowen, to sign with Louisville at the re­quest of a Car­di­nals coach.

Q. What are the odds that Joshua Lang­ford goes pro af­ter this year? He's a former McDon­ald's All Amer­i­can that's played much bet­ter this year (ex­clud­ing the Rutgers game). Seemed like he never got up to speed af­ter his in­jury last year, but I've gen­er­ally been im­pressed so far this year. @ john­s1pr

A. I would think a log­i­cal person would say, at least 10 games into the sea­son, that Lang­ford should not head to the NBA af­ter this sea­son. How­ever, that rarely comes into play these days, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t guar­an­tee any player on the ros­ter re­turns. That said, I’d be sur­prised if any­one out­side of Miles Bridges or Jaren Jack­son Jr. does, in fact, leave early.

I’d put Nick Ward in the mildly sur­prised cat­e­gory be­cause it was con­tem­plated last sea­son.

I think Lang­ford needs to con­tinue to be­come a bet­ter de­fender and the con­sis­tency still needs to de­velop. He’s a shooter, and some nights shots don’t fall, but he needs to con­sis­tently take bet­ter shots and make good de­ci­sions with the ball. As Izzo said af­ter the Rutgers game, Lang­ford in­vented some new shots.

Dale G. Young/Detroit News

De­spite his hot start, sopho­more Joshua Lang­ford will be back next sea­son and not in the NBA.

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