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.
Talen Horton-Tucker has been hearing the comparisons for years.
He first heard his game and style likened to Charles Barkley in the sixth grade and it hasn’t stopped since. Later, it was another player, 4-star Belleville (Ill.) guard Jordan Goodwin, in whom people saw similarities.
But the one that has stuck most came along when the 2018 guard started playing for Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy in high school. “Lil Jabari,” he was called, in reference to former Simeon and current Milwaukee Bucks star Jabari Parker.
“That’s who I want to model my game after,” Horton-Tucker told Land of 10, “if I grow some more.”
Right now, Horton-Tucker stands 6 feet 5 but plays bigger, with the strength to force his way to the rim and the athleticism to finish above it. He likes to play in a balanced half-court set with quick ball movement, but he also likes to turn up the tempo when the opportunity presents itself.
He saw a bit of both on Friday at Michigan State Madness. Senior Eron Harris shot the ball well. Freshman Cassius Winston controlled the game. Fellow first-year player Miles Bridges did a bit of everything. That’s what stood out to Horton-Tucker, as well as the overall energy and style of play.
“They play fast,” Horton-Tucker said. “I like that. They play fast and always make sure they move the ball around. There’s never somebody pounding the ball.”
Horton-Tucker sat next to 4-star Spartans commit Xavier Tillman and hung around with a number of other recruits. He didn’t speak much with the coaches while at the Breslin Center, but he’s since heard from coach Tom Izzo and assistant coach Mike Garland, who thanked him for visiting and reiterated their interest in him.
This marked Horton-Tucker’s third visit, following trips for team camp and for the season-opening football game against Furman. He left happy with the experience.
“It was really fun,” he said, “just talking to some of the guys that came and some of the guys they’re interested in.”
Many others have expressed interest in Horton-Tucker as well. He holds offers from DePaul, Iowa State, Loyola (Ill.), Missouri, Toledo, UIC and most recently, Northwestern. The latter is particularly intriguing because of Horton-Tucker’s commitment to academics and how long he has known Wildcats assistant Patrick Baldwin.
Horton-Tucker wants to find a great family atmosphere, and plenty of schools want to show that to him. So far, love from recruiting experts hasn’t matched attention from coaches. The 247Sports composite still has him unranked, but he isn’t stressing.
“You have to win first, and that’s all I really care about,” Horton-Tucker said. “Rankings, they really don’t matter like that to me, but it’s just something to keep in your head like motivation. I actually like that I haven’t been highly rated or even ranked at all.
“I feel like I’m underrated, so I have to show everybody what I can do.”
No, not Tyler O’Connor vs. Brian Lewerke. We’re talking recruiting.
Michigan State has, so far, offered just two quarterbacks in the 2018 class: Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville (Ga.) and Kevin Doyle of Malvern Prep (Pa.)
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall prospect in the class, will very likely end up elsewhere. Doyle, on the other hand, has expressed heavy interest in the Spartans and looks to be their top target.
Beyond that, many remain “in the mix.” That’s how Mentor (Ohio) junior Tadas Tatarunas described his status with Michigan State following his latest conversations with the staff.
“They said they’re still recruiting me,” he said. “They didn’t mention an offer, so I’m hoping it’ll come soon.”
Tatarunas, who initially planned to visit for the game Saturday against Northwestern, instead came to East Lansing on Sept. 24 to watch the Spartans take on Wisconsin.
He spoke with assistant coaches Dave Warner, Jim Bollman and Brad Salem on the field before the game. Afterward, he talked again with Salem, who told him MSU is still interested and will evaluate his film soon.
“It was awesome,” Tatarunas said of the visit. “I had a really fun time.”
OLB includes MSU on short list
Spanish Fort (Ala.) 3-star linebacker Thomas Johnston, whom Michigan State offered last week, included the Spartans on a trimmed list released Tuesday.
List can change but as of right now these are the top schools I'm interested in‼️#blessed pic.twitter.com/yHX72or2sL
— Thomas Johnston (@TDJohnston42) October 18, 2016
Teams that have reportedly offered but were left off include Auburn, Cal, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, N.C. State, North Carolina and Oregon.
UAB is another interesting absence; Johnston’s brother Tyler is a quarterback there. Don’t expect Johnston to make his decision until after the season, as he intends to put his team first.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.