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June 29, 2009

Let's review

    Vacation is over and the official start of the 2009 preseason –- Big Ten football media days in Chicago –- is exactly four weeks from today. Can you believe it?

    Much has happened in my time away…
    * First of all, the deepest of sympathy goes to the family of Saginaw High coach Lou Dawkins, after the tragic and shocking loss of his 14-year-old son, Dorian. Dorian collapsed during the annual Izzo Shootout at MSU on June 12 and passed away early the next morning of an apparent heart attack. Here is an account that sheds some light on the horror of that night. Unfathomable.

    * My last post before leaving speculated that while MSU led for William Gholston, it would probably be a long time and a lot of twists before he made a choice. Wrong again. He committed to MSU right after the one-day camp. And Mylan Hicks committed. And Taylor Calero got an offer and committed. And Joe Boisture became MSU’s 2010 quarterback, days after Robert Bolden was supposed to do so.         Whatever exactly happened with Bolden, he has moved on to consider Penn State and Oregon, and Boisture –- a Boston College commitment previously –- contacted MSU when he learned that the spot remained open.
    Here are some thoughts from Boisture on his commitment in a piece by our Dan Kilbridge.
    Gholston (No. 47) and Boisture (No. 90) are the only two prospects from the state in the Rivals.com national top 100.
    So the 2010 class suddenly looks like it has a chance to approach its much-celebrated predecessor. Individually, Gholston is a commitment in the mold of a Charles Rogers, T.J. Duckett, Jeff Smoker (and Edwin Baker, for that matter). A guy who picked MSU over countless high-level offers. A perception changer and someone who can sway others to choose MSU. We have no idea how good he’ll be as a player, but his impact will be felt long before his college career takes shape.
    Mark Dantonio’s staff tried to get others like him in the past. By all accounts, MSU was in there late for Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Ron Johnson (USC) and Nick Perry (also USC). Now the Spartans have nabbed a big one, and they led all the way. That doesn’t guarantee it’ll keep happening, but from a pure recruiting standpoint this program appears to be in its best position in 20 years.
    Very strong in the state, in Detroit, in Ohio. Do they need to expand south more? It can’t hurt. Some, such as our pal Tim Staudt, say it’s imperative, that getting top players in the Midwest is not enough.
    To me, if you have 20 cousins from the same high school in Canton, Ohio, at various positions and they can all play, why go elsewhere?
    I agree that there’s more talent down South. But if you’re getting the best in Michigan (which MSU hasn’t done in a long time), if you’re getting commitments from kids with U-M offers (which, correct me if I’m wrong, John L. Smith did once, with Kellen Davis), if you’re getting next crack after Ohio State in that talent-rich state, you can build a heck of a team.
    Speaking of Florida and John L., he did all right there. His first class featured Floridians Griff Howard, Joe Toth, Jamar Jones and Irving Campbell. No one knew much about them, but hey, they were from Florida so they had to be good, right?
    And I’m really not trying to pick on John L. here (that first class was thrown together on short time), I’m just trying to illustrate that geography is overrated.
    I will pick on Tim some more, since we’ll probably argue about this in a couple days. He doubts that you can build a “national championship team” with local kids in this region. That roster must be overwhelmed by Southerners. But if you look at the U-M team that got a share of the national title in 1997, 14 starters and 70 percent of the roster were from northern states, with seven starters from Michigan and two apiece from Ohio and Illinois.
    Southerners such as Chris Howard, James Hall and Steve Hutchinson made a difference, no doubt about it. But Michigan built that team mostly within its region.
    And what about the 2002 Ohio State BCS champs? Of the 120 players on that team’s official roster, 88 (73.3 percent) were from Ohio. Another 12 were from northern states.
    The starting lineup featured 14 Ohioans, six on offense and eight on defense. Eighteen northern players. There were two Floridian starters –- receiver Michael Jenkins and DB/WR Chris Gamble.
    In both cases, the foundation was built locally, with some difference makers sprinkled in from elsewhere. It’s true, there are a lot of speedy kids in the Southern states. But who was the speediest, best player on either of those teams? Charles Woodson from Fremont, Ohio.
    Anyway, Michigan State should work on a Big Ten championship before anyone starts talking national title. Local can get that done. And it’s not like the MSU staff is ignoring the South. They have signed eight such recruits in three classes, with two from Florida, two from Georgia, one from Texas, one from Kentucky, one from Tennessee and one from Virginia. Three of those eight kids have already defected, by the way.

    * On the basketball side of things, Goran Suton was drafted in the second round, No. 50 overall, by the Utah Jazz last week. Here is a thorough recap from Chris Solari, with some very telling comments from Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor.
    Suton (who joins Morris Peterson in the front window of the Tom Izzo Player Development Hall of Fame) is the latest example of just how important the NCAA Tournament is to a player’s future. Measurables are essential, workouts are huge, but NBA people want to see what you do between the lines when the pressure is at its highest. I firmly believe Suton earned himself this reward with what he did in March, and that an early MSU flameout probably would have left him undrafted.
    Utah is a good spot for him, and I think he can make that team this year and have a solid career. Despite the so-so athleticism, he has a lot to offer. He can shoot, pass and guard the pick-and-roll. Now just MAKE LAYUPS!
    As for the other three MSU seniors, I’d expect all three to end up overseas somewhere, after taking a shot in the NBA summer leagues. Marquise Gray is the one guy I could see making a GM stroke his chin for a few extra seconds.
    Some eyebrows raised, by the way, at this comment Gray made to me before the draft: “At MSU I don’t feel like I ever showcased the things I can do on a consistent basis.”
    My reaction is, he’s absolutely right. He never got to showcase all the things he can do, because he was never able to earn enough minutes. I’ve seen the guy do all kinds of ridiculous stuff in practice and pick-up games, and you’ve seen some amazing displays of athleticism in games.
    At a program where defense isn’t as important, Gray probably could have played a lot more and put up strong numbers. But would he have been any more ready for the NBA? Was he kept off the floor unjustly at MSU? I don’t get the feeling he subscribes to either belief, but if he does … there’s this big river in Egypt…

    * Sticking with MSU basketball, here’s a story about Austin Thornton and young fatherhood that earned quite a response, positive and negative. Some people were upset that we featured his story on 1A on Father’s Day, rather than someone who is married to the mother, supports his child financially, has Ward Cleaver’s haircut, etc., etc.
    Obviously, this is a story because Thornton is an MSU basketball player and a public figure. It’s also the story of a mistake, a difficult situation, two kids stepping up to take responsibility –- and of two other fathers, and mothers, who are doing what they can to give the child a good life. Is that offensive?

    * Finally, here’s a disappointing tale of an injury and lost opportunity for Nicole Bush -- one of the best athletes on the MSU campus over the past few years -- that never should have happened. Here’s a bit more on the fiasco. Kudos to Bush for finishing the race anyway, and hopefully she’ll bounce back and continue to compete at a high level.



About the author

Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter

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