LA PORTE, Ind. — Tyger Campbell took the inbounds pass, looked up and pushed the ball up the court.
He might have been the only person on the floor and even in Marsch Gym who knew the time and score. This was just a scrimmage with sagging defense as the La Lumiere (Ind.) School players tried to outdo each other with alley-oop dunks.
But Campbell still made sure to take a quick glance at the clock. Under 10 seconds remaining. He crossed halfcourt and drove down the lane uncontested (again, All-Star Weekend-level defense) into the waiting arms of 4-star big man Jacob Epperson and 5-star wing Brian Bowen, who lifted him up for a two-handed slam as time expired.
It was nice to have the favor returned. Campbell had been setting up Bowen and Epperson for flashy jams all game. A 6-foot (hair probably included) sophomore point guard, he has been La Lumiere’s primary playmaker since he transferred over the summer of 2015. He and his teammates on the nation’s No. 1 high school team have elevated each other.
“When you play with a lot of great guys, you’ve got to raise up to their level,” Campbell told Land of 10, “and you’ve got to bring them up there with you and keep rising.”
Campbell has risen to a 4-star prospect, the No. 3 point guard in his class and the target of many top schools’ interest. Alabama, Creighton, Iowa, Purdue, Tennessee and UNLV are among those who have offered. Campbell expects Illinois, which has offered, to visit soon for a practice. But none, in his mind, has been going harder than Michigan State.
The Spartans offered Campbell in April and have had him up for four or five visits, during which he’s built a strong relationship with the staff. He particularly likes assistant coach Dane Fife, who’s always on his case. On one visit, Fife told him to pick his energy up because he’ll need to be active with recruits should he commit to MSU.
“That guy’s just funny,” Campbell said of Fife with a smile. “He’s crazy. I like how he’s always intense. He’s always trying to get me better. He’s always holding me accountable. I like that.”
Campbell is too young for coaches to legally contact him directly, so most of the interactions come from visits. One of his most common visit partners is Bowen, who’s been traveling up to Michigan State since he was a toddler.
The Saginaw, Mich., native continues to be in heavy contact with the Spartans staff. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and his assistants have been making the obvious pitch to their local target.
“Just how loyal they have been to me, how long they’ve been recruiting me and everything,” Bowen said of what’s being emphasized. “Just the home factor as well. Just being the guy out of Michigan to go to Michigan State, it would be cool.
“They have really big dreams for me as far as aspiring to the same dreams I have. It’s really a big part of everything they say. Coach Izzo’s a Hall of Famer. That’s hard to beat.”
Michigan State has one fewer program to try to beat. After a canceled visit, UCLA is off Bowen’s list, and he’s now got a final five: Michigan State, Arizona, Creighton, NC State and Texas.
Bowen took his most recent official visits to Arizona and NC State and had rave reviews. Arizona wing Ray Smith had to retire following repeated ACL injuries, so the staff wants Bowen to fill the void. At NC State, the style of play stands out, and Bowen likes the way coach Mark Gottfried’s group gets up and down the floor.
Now he intends to take an official visit to Creighton over the weekend. He’s visited before but is looking forward to hearing more of the Bluejays’ pitch to him.
“They just need a straight bucket-getter,” Bowen said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all. Put shooters around me and everything, go and score the ball.”
Bowen will also look to visit Texas later this month, so don’t expect a decision made during the early signing period, which wraps up on Nov. 16. He’ll then have until April, when the regular period starts, so there will be no rush.
That gives his 5-star teammate, Michigan State signee Jaren Jackson Jr., more time to get in his ear about choosing the Spartans. Even the elder Jaren Jackson, a Georgetown alumnus, has been influential. He was there at Marsch Madness, all decked out in Spartans attire, watching the action.
“Every day, he’s always talking about Michigan State,” Bowen said of Jackson Jr. “Him or his dad, either one of them. I’ve been hearing it a lot. It’s fun.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.