On the banks of the Red Cedar, recruiting never stops. We’re here every step of the way to keep you moving along with it through our daily notebook. Any recruiting questions? Comment below or direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get them answered.
Let’s start with a recruiting story. A recruiting story about the second-leading scorer in Michigan State men’s basketball history.
Steve Smith had been dominating the Detroit high school basketball scene for Pershing High, and Jim Larrañaga took notice. Larrañaga had just taken the head coaching job at Bowling Green and wanted Smith to get the recruiting momentum going with the Falcons.
Speaking with media at his NCAA Tournament news conference on Thursday, Larrañaga told the story of how he tried to make that happen.
He began to prioritize Smith, visiting the talented guard in September of 1986, Smith’s senior year. He sat in Smith’s home and offered him a scholarship. And Smith gave him a perplexing response.
“He told me he was going to visit,” Larrañaga said, “that he was very seriously considering Bowling Green, unless…
“I said, ‘What do you mean, Steve? Unless what?'”
And Smith explained. “Unless Michigan State offers me a scholarship, because they’re my favorite,” Larrañaga remembered him saying. “Magic Johnson is my hero, and if they offer me that’s where I’m going.”
Larrañaga recalled Smith scoring 47 points for Pershing the following weekend. And who was in the crowd? None other than Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, then an assistant under Spartans skipper Jud Heathcote.
Per Larrañaga, Izzo went to Smith’s home — without Heathcote — and offered him a scholarship.
“If I heard the story correctly, Steve Smith committed to him on the spot,” Larrañaga said. “That was our first encounter.”
As you likely know, Smith’s scoring only slightly slowed down from his time at Pershing to East Lansing. He averaged 18.5 points per game over four seasons and led the Spartans to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
Larrañaga did just fine himself, leading Bowling Green to a 60-55 record over those same four seasons. But he sure would’ve loved to have had Smith.
Of course, Larrañaga and Michigan State are again crossing paths, as his Miami Hurricanes will face the Spartans in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday.
30 years later, another talented Detroit guard
And the story of Smith and his path to Michigan State brings us to the present-day Spartans. Michigan State certainly needs to add at least one more 2017 prospect to its recruiting class. Ideally, it would add two more.
And another Detroit star seems the most likely possibility — Greg Elliott of East Detroit. Land of 10 caught up with Elliott after a win against Smith’s alma mater, Pershing, in February. He spoke about his interest in Michigan State and what it meant to him for Izzo to offer him a scholarship.
The Class of 2017 guard given a 3-star rating by 247Sports still hasn’t come to a decision. He has taken official visits to Rice, Toledo, Marquette and Providence, but he still wants to take his final one to Michigan State before he chooses a school.
Elliott told Land of 10 he took an unofficial visit to Michigan State on Tuesday. He came with his coach, checked out practice and got a glimpse of the facilities. But it wasn’t his official.
He plans to save that until after the Spartans’ NCAA Tournament run has ended. Until then, he won’t be able to come in and spend a weekend with the coaches and players.
Elliott likes Marquette because his AAU teammate with The Family, Jamal Cain, plays for the Golden Eagles. He likes Providence because of the guard-oriented offense.
And despite growing up a Michigan fan, he likes the Spartans because of their vision for him, one that could include early playing time with senior guards Alvin Ellis III and Eron Harris heading out.
An official visit would be a great opportunity to seal the deal with Elliott — and potentially end the Spartans’ hunt for 5-star wing Brian Bowen, who continues to hold off on a decision.
Once this season ends, the work toward putting another talented freshman class on the floor in 2017-18 will resume.
Michigan State commits move on in state playoffs
One down, two remain.
Clarkston (Mich.) junior point guard Foster Loyer may have knocked 4-star forward and fellow 2018 Michigan State commit Thomas Kithier out of the state tournament on Monday, but he and 4-star Spartans signee Xavier Tillman still remain.
Loyer’s Wolves took down Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 56-36 on Wednesday. He scored 14 points in the contest to lead Clarkston to a regional title and a berth in the state finals. Three more wins would mean a state championship, and the first of those will have to come against Saginaw on Tuesday.
Tillman and Grand Rapids Christian moved on to the finals, as well. They won a 59-56 nail-biter over West Ottawa on Wednesday. Tillman scored 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the contest. The Eagles will now face Kalamazoo Central and Michigan commit Isaiah Livers on Tuesday.
If their two teams were to meet, it would be in the Class-A championship game at the Breslin Center.