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August 05, 2010

The story on Trice

Tubby Smith called as they were driving up to East Lansing on Wednesday. Travis Trice and Travis Trice II told Tubby where they were going, and he asked if they'd consider turning the car around and committing to the Gophers instead.

    It wasn't happening, even though the Trices had no idea whether Tom Izzo was going to offer a scholarship or not. Minnesota joined Penn State and Northwestern as Big Ten schools that had decided Trice's talent warranted a scholarship -- and far exceeded his fillinrecruitingsitehere.com profile.

    Izzo apparently had already realized that. Ten days earlier, he told Trice and his father -- a former player at Purdue and Butler and now his son's coach at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne High -- that he was very interested. That he was recruiting him because of what he saw, and he had seen plenty. Izzo was at just about every one of Trice's AAU games this summer, because Trice played with uber prospect and MSU target Branden Dawson.

    "Tom told Travis, 'I saw you with my own eyes. I saw you being the best player on the floor in a lot of games,'" the elder Trice recalled of the conversation. "There's a comfort level when one of the best head coaches ever lays eyes on you for 22 games and decides there's a spot for you at Michigan State."

    Dawson hurt his nose in July and missed a couple games. Before one of them, coaches from UCLA, Purdue and several other schools were in the stands. When they learned Dawson wouldn't be playing the game, they left. Even Matt Painter, who played with Trice at Purdue. All except Izzo.

    "That's when we knew he was serious," Travis Sr. said.

    They found out how serious Wednesday. After eight hours with Izzo in East Lansing on an unofficial visit, Izzo offered a four-year scholarship. He asked for a commitment on the spot. The Trices kept it together and said they needed to go home and discuss it, but the car was passing the Kellogg Center when young Travis told his dad to stop it.

    "Man, I was ready to do it right then," Travis II said. "I didn't want to do it on the spot because my family is really close and we make decisions with each other, but I knew."

    They talked for a half hour, then continued driving and called Izzo to give him the news. Around the same time, Dawson texted Trice and told him he was going to commit.

    "I had no clue," Travis II said. "It was just crazy. I called him and just said, 'I'm excited, dude. We get to play together for another four years."

    It's been four years together in AAU ball, although they live in different states and, according to the elder Trice, are more acquaintances than bosom buddies. He is definitely sensitive about the implication that his son's recruitment might have been a way to help convince Dawson to commit. Or that his son should be viewed as any less of a player than the guards he has battled all summer who have stars next to their names.

    "If Michigan State wasn't serious about Travis coming in and playing and being a part of winning championships, we wouldn't even have considered it," Travis Sr. said. "He is such a hard worker and he has worked his butt off for the last four months. He has been playing against and beating three-, four- and five-star players. He can play at this level, and anyone who doubts that is really doubting coach Izzo.

    "He has dissected Travis' game and he has made it clear throughout this process that he is recruiting him, regardless of anyone else."

    If there's anything obvious about Trice that places him behind other elite guards, it's size. He's 6-foot and 165 pounds. He needs to add bulk and strength. But if he does, he is a point guard with a jump shot, natural leadership skills (it helps to have a dad who is a coach and a former high major player) and a tenacious approach to defense. And MSU is going to need one of those after Korie Lucious leaves in 2012.

    Is it possible anymore for the recruiting services to miss this much on someone? The Trices plan to prove it.

    "He's not the fastest or most athletic player, but he doesn't turn the ball over, he knows how to get guys the ball," Trice Sr. said of his son. "Rather than dribble into trouble, he pulls up and hits the 12- to 15-foot shot. All these things are what coach Izzo saw over and over again. And I think the fact that Travis is not a national recruit helps, too. A lot of guys like that have a great work ethic, and I know Travis does."

    And in other MSU basketball news: The Maui bracket has been released and the Spartans will play Chaminade in the quarters (Nov. 22 at 9:30 p.m. on ESPNU), just as in 2005. The winner will play Wichita State or UConn in the semifinals. The other side of the bracket consists of Kentucky, Oklahoma, Washington and Virginia.

    

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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