Jeff Rabjohns B1G Recruiting GURU Talks Michigan State Basketball 2014 Class
Q: Let’s start with Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn. I think there was a little bit of a surprise…people thought he was a lean to Indiana. But Michigan State came through. Would you talk about your thoughts on him as a player.
A: I think the biggest thing with Tum Tum is he has game-changing speed. He is so incredibly quick with the ball in his hands, not only getting to spaces for himself and attacking the paint and the rim area, but he’s so quick in getting a spot on the floor. He really excels when you wanna run. He’s really terrific in transition with athletes on his left and right. That’s an element of his game that’s really special. He is a little bit undersized, he’s listed at 5’11”. I’m 5’9 1/2” and he and I have stood and talked and we’re right about at the exact same height. So I’d say he’s probably legitimately more like 5’10”. The size is a little bit of a question for some people. And obviously when you go up against bigger guards that can be a factor, no question about it. But I really do like his speed, his speed with the ball. He’s got a little bit of Yogi Ferrell in him in that he’s one of those kinds of guys who you’ve watched them play and they can really kick it into fifth gear physically, but you can still see mentally they know what’s going on while they’re coming up the court full speed. You and I both, and probably a lot of fans, have seen those guys who play in fifth gear and get out of control. And you think, Gosh if that kid would just slow down a little bit. Nairn’s one of those players who can play really fast and continue to make good decisions. His outside shot, that’s something that’s still in the development stages. That’s gonna need to improve where you’re really gonna be able to play off of him at the college level, particularly at the Big 10 level. But his speed with the ball is clearly his biggest attribute.
Q: I asked Coach Linsted about Tum Tum’s shooting being his kryptonite, and he took exception to that. He thinks he’s a much better scorer than people give him credit for just because he doesn’t go to it much in their system. Do you buy that?
A: I’m sure that that’s a good coach’s view and there probably are some shots that he could make that he does not take in their system. I think with most elite programs that was also true to some extent. But the jumper… I’m not saying it’s awful. I’m not saying Tum Tum can’t shoot. That’s not the point at all. But to be effective at the Big 10 level as a point guard at a pretty good level, not just say he could handle it and he could get it to other people at that level, the shot’s gotta continue to improve. That’s why I would say it’s a work in progress. It’s not awful. It’s not like he’s gonna go out there and go 1 for 20 from 3 as a freshman or something like that. But it does need to improve a little bit, just from the consistency standpoint. Because if it is where it is right now when he’s a freshman… He’s got a whole other year of high school, he’s gonna have a summer of working on it, so you would expect there to be some improvement. We’re probably talking about, what, right at 12 months of improvement? If the kid is a diligent worker. But it’s gotta get a little better or come Big 10 play, he is the kind of guy where we start off each game going, Okay go behind the screens, wait to make sure, Does he actually get the shot? If he does then we go out and guard him. But we’re gonna make him prove he’s on tonight kinda kid. We’ve all seen those scouting reports. That’s the scouting report as it lies right now, or potential.
Q: Michigan State has one commitment for the 2014 class. Do you think Michigan State is legitimately in the mix for Kevon Looney from Milwaukee, and do you think they get him?
A: Kevon Looney is a really, really interesting player with an interesting recruitment. It’s kind of… I would say sometimes recruitments speed up, sometimes they slow down. His has kinda done both. There was a point when people kinda thought Kentucky was really in there, but Kentucky never offered. There was a point when people thought that Carolina might be making a move, but Carolina never offered. Right now he’s basically down to six schools: Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee, UCLA and Wisconsin. He’s taken visits to Duke, Florida and Tennessee already. I think Michigan State is certainly heavily involved there. I don’t know if I would go out and predict that Kevin Looney will end up at Michigan State, but I think Michigan State is involved. Are they involved enough to get him? I don’t know. I would say it’s possible but I don’t know that I’d go further than that just yet…certainly if he makes a visit. He’s from Milwaukee so you can see he’s grown up in Big 10 country. Sometimes that’s a benefit. Sometimes guys who are really athletic and want to get out and run…and I’ve seen this several times…kinda look at the bruising Big 10 and say, I wanna go somewhere else because I wanna go run. That might lean toward Duke or Florida or maybe Tennessee.
Q: I was told by someone in the high school circuit that it was a lock, Duke or Florida. Are you hearing that?
A: I am hearing that. And there are some people who believe that that’s where that’s at. There are some people who think that’s not quite as done to one of those two schools as others think. But I have heard that and I think that’s very possible. I think it’s very possible. I would say at this point, I would say Duke and Florida are the two leaders for Kevin Looney. I would at least put it that way. I don’t know if I would say it’s a lock, but I would say those are the two schools that are out front right now. Kevin Looney has said he doesn’t want to make a fall decision. Signing day is always the second Wednesday of November, so we’ve only got about 5 weeks left for him to make a decision. Michigan State is in a position that they’d have to make up ground if they want to have a real shot come signing day.
Q: Reid Travis, the power forward out of Minneapolis DeLaSalle. What are your thoughts on him?
A: Yeah, I think Reid is a really… I thought he was underrated at the time. Maybe because he was only 6’7”. He does have a power forward kind of game. He’s not a wing; he’s a power forward kinda guy. He’s basically down to four schools as of right now with Duke, Gonzaga, Minnesota and Stanford. There are some others who are trying to kinda stay involved, but I think that’s his final four. And I think he’s gonna stick with that final four. I think he’s a really skilled player. He may be…I’m trying to think of a guy who he compares to, a good comparison…maybe a guy who’s a couple inches shorter but plays a little bit like a Jared Sullinger from Ohio State. He’s kinda got that big caboose. He can kinda move people around a little bit. I think he’s gonna be a pretty impactful player. He plays for the Howard Pulley Youth Program, a teammate of Tyus Jones’s. I’ve been a fan of his game for awhile now.
Q: Give me the names of other guys that you think are still in the mix for Michigan State in 2014, legitimately.
A: Legitimately? I’m trying to think…if you qualify in that way. I don’t think Travis is there anymore, at this point. It’s really kind of tough to say exactly who I think they’re legitimately in for because I thought they wanted to make a big run at Jaylen Johnson, who committed to Louisville. I know they wanted to make a run at Reid Travis, but I really think he’s gonna stay with his final four right now.
Jaylen committed to Louisville in September, so he’s been off the board. I think it’s kinda tough right now. I think it’s tough right now to get a real sense of who Michigan State might have a real shot at. There’s a number of guys they’re gonna talk to, they’re gonna take a run at. But I’m not too sure exactly who I would say they legitimately have a shot for at this point. I know they’re hopeful with Looney and if they get him in for a visit that might put them in the mix. I’m starting to wonder kinda where they’re gonna go really with this class. Are they in a position where they have to start looking junior college? Are they in a position where they have to start thinking about spring? Are they in a position where they have to start thinking about spring fifth year guys, when they graduate from one place and transfer? It’s getting to the point that there’ve been a number of big swings without commitments outside of Lourawls Nairn.
Q: What about Devin Booker? Do you think Michigan State is legitimately still in that fight?
A: I don’t really think so. I do hear from some who think so. I heard from a couple of people whose opinion I respect who’ve basically said, Don’t take Michigan State completely off the table just yet. But I think I’m at the point that I would be a little bit surprised if he does end up at Michigan State. He’s obviously a really talented player but he’s got Kentucky seriously involved, Michigan seriously involved, Michigan State is one of his finalists. He took a visit there in early September. He’s got a visit coming up to Missouri. He just got done with his Michigan visit this past weekend, which I was told went really well. I think Michigan State’s… Maybe the way one of my sources phrased it, Don’t take them off the table just yet, is the best way to phrase it. I think I would probably leave it at that. But I think Michigan and Kentucky, if they really make a push for him, might be the two most probable at this point in time, before he takes his Missouri visit. I will tell you this regarding Booker: There’s obviously a lot of dominoes involved sometimes. Michigan is gonna be part of the whole Booker situation because Michigan’s got four commitments already. It wants to take one more; it wants a class of five. Its number one target for that fifth spot is James Blackmon, Jr, the five star shooting guard out of Marion, IN. Michigan also obviously, as we just mentioned, is in on Booker. If Michigan gets Blackmon, that takes them off the table for Booker. If Kentucky lands Booker, then obviously that takes him off the table for Michigan. It’s kind of like in a way they’re playing a little Russian roulette with each other, so to speak. But that’s gonna kinda be part of the whole dynamic as far as how this thing plays out.
Q: Is Michigan, with four commits for 2014?
A: I think Big 10-wise it’s gonna be pretty good. Ohio State might end up a little above them, but I think it’s gonna be pretty solid. Cameron Chapman is very good. He’s a 6’7” forward they got. I would say he’s without question the headliner in that class right now. He’s a top 30 kind of prospect. I really like his game a lot and I like his ability to impact the game. DJ Wilson is kind of a top 150 kid, but not really a guy who you’d expect huge, big-time impact from. The other guys are Ricky Doyle, a 6’9” power forward, and Austin Hatch who most people are familiar with his story being involved in two planes crashes and everything. It’s a pretty good class. I think depending upon who they add at the end will kind of determine how good it is and where it ranks. I don’t think it’s a nationally ranked class just yet, because you’re talking about one 4 star kid and two 3 stars. So you expect to get the tribute reasonably soon. It’s a solid class right now. But if they put a 5 star player on top of it right now…like a Booker or James Blackmon…that could change it a little bit. That would certainly give it a little more muscle, especially in the Big 10. I wouldn’t expect it to jump up to being the big-time nationally ranked class though.
***NOTE: Shortly after doing this interview, Rabjohns reported that 2014 F Trevon Bluiett (who is making an official visit to Memphis this weekend) his father told him that he, “May take an official visit to Michigan State soon.”***