The 2015-’16 season looks promising for Michigan State. Coming off a surprise run to the final four, the Spartans have lost stars Travis Trice and Branden Dawson but return a solid core of players highlighted by wing Denzel Valentine. Time will tell how good Michigan State turns out to be, but Tom Izzo and company look like a team to be reckoned with once again.
Although they’ve got three starters and a host of other bench players returning, the Spartans will still benefit from some new talent like the rest of the teams in the Big ten. In recruits Deyonta Davis, Matt McQuaid and Kyle Ahrens and transfer Eron Harris, Michigan State has added plenty of athleticism, shooting and even size to an already solid lineup. While all of them will likely have a big role at some point in their careers, they won’t all have the same impact next season. Let’s try to determine who will contribute the most in his first season in East Lansing.
This is a tricky one. Harris, the talented guard who sat out last season after transferring from West Virginia, was suspended indefinitely at the beginning of July after a drunk driving incident. For the sake of this article, we’ll act as if he’ll rejoin the team soon.
If Harris is able to keep his head on straight, he could be an excellent addition to the Spartans’ backcourt. His last season at West Virginia, Harris finished second on the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three. Not only can he shoot, the 6’3" wing is an athletic playmaker who can get to the rim and rebounds well for his size. He isn’t known to be a consistent defender, which is the biggest aspect of his game the former Mountaineer will have to clean up.
With the departure of Trice, Michigan State needs a new shooting guard to play next to sophomore point guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. He’ll have plenty of competition from senior Bryn Forbes, but Harris will play heavy minutes even if he doesn’t start. Let’s just hope he’s on the court soon.
Michigan State has had some pretty good power forwards in recent years, from Draymond Green to Adreian Payne and Dawson. If Davis plays up to his potential, he could be the next Spartans big man to get drafted in a few years. At 6’9’ and 250 pounds, Davis has plenty of size but also superb athleticism and a motor that will make him a terror for opposing fours to guard. Combine that with his terrific shot-blocking skills and a decent jump shot and it’s hard to imagine him not developing into a stud at some point.
While he’ll definitely get plenty of minutes next season, the Spartans have an experienced front court and it’s yet to be determined how Izzo constructs the lineup. Seniors Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello will play a lot, but both of them are more traditional bangers who will benefit from having someone with stretch capabilities like Davis next to them. The Spartans also have sophomore forward Marvin Clark Jr., and while he’s more suited to play the three, he could play the four at times if the team opts for a smaller lineup. However it shakes out, expect Davis to be a key part of the rotation next season.
A 6’5", 180 pound shooting guard from Texas, the scouting report on McQuaid is simple. The kid can simply shoot the lights out of the basketball. Although he’ll need to bulk up, McQuaid is a tough player who should be able to stretch the floor tremendously once he gets on the court. When that will be however, is still up in the air. While the Spartans could always use him next season, there won’t be much playing time available with Valentine, Harris, Forbes and Javon Bess already at wing. That doesn’t mean he’ll definitely redshirt, but it is a possibility.
Another 6’5" freshman wing with terrific shooting ability who may have to wait his turn before playing? Yep, the Spartans have two next season thanks to Ahrens, a recruit out of Ohio. Despite the similarities, Ahrens isn’t a carbon copy of McQuaid. Along with his shooting, he’s a very good athlete and ball-handler who ran some point in high school. Like his new teammate though, he may spend most of next season on the bench learning from his more experienced teammates.
Harris and Davis will definitely be the biggest contributors out of Michigan State’s new players next season. Harris’ experience gives him the upper hand, but don’t be surprised if Davis turns some heads and ultimately is a bigger part of the team.