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.
Duane Washington Jr. can point to a pretty clear turning point in his recruitment.
On Friday, Jan. 29, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian played Lowell in a battle of local powerhouses. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo stood in attendance, having come in to see Washington’s 4-star teammate Xavier Tillman (now a Spartans commit) and Lowell sharpshooter Matt Beachler (now a Central Michigan commit).
But Washington, then just a sophomore, sort of stole the show in a 57-35 win for Grand Rapids Christian. He scored 21 points and, by his recollection, doled out 6 assists. The next day, he got invited to Michigan State’s Sunday game against Rutgers.
Since then, the recruitment from Michigan State has gradually grown. Washington has taken countless MSU visits, including to football games against Furman and Wisconsin this season. He keeps in contact with all of the coaches, but most often Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland, with whom he speaks almost daily.
And now that Tillman has committed and fellow teammate James Beck has pledged to Oakland, Washington’s recruitment has become more his own. He takes more visits on his own and is receiving interest meant just for him.
“It’s separated itself more now,” Washington told Land of 10. “Now, besides Oakland and MSU, all the colleges are like coming for me now, and now they’re just looking to see what I can instead of everybody else as a whole.”
The latest trip came Friday, when he attended Michigan State Madness with Tillman and several other recruits. He had been there the year before as well, but he found himself more enthralled with the scrimmage this time around, calling freshman Miles Bridges “a freak athlete” and complimenting the play of seniors Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis III.
“I kind of liked this (year’s Michigan State Madness) better,” Washington said. “Last year was fun and whatnot, but they didn’t play as good as they did this year. It wasn’t as up-and-down, and they didn’t score as much at all either. This year was like more fun and exciting and up-and-down.”
That’s the style Washington likes. At 6-foot-3, he can play on and off the ball, as he often did for his Michigan Basketball Academy AAU team in the spring and summer. He describes his strengths as shooting, court vision and passing, while his athleticism is steadily improving.
His game has drawn widespread interest. Cal, Michigan and William & Mary have also been in recent contact. Middle Tennessee State, his former pro-basketball-playing father’s alma mater (sorry, Michigan State fans), has inquired. Washington will also visit Arkansas when he travels to see family over Thanksgiving.
Then there’s the ever-growing offer list: Akron, Binghamton, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan, Youngstown State and the latest, Oakland. With plenty to choose from, Washington described what he hopes to find in a school.
“I want to go somewhere that feels like home,” he said, “and I want to go somewhere academics are strong and I know I can become a man there and grow as an individual and grow as a person just as much as a basketball player. It’s more than basketball. At some point, I’ve got to stop dribbling the basketball. After that, I want to be successful in different ways.”
A business and marketing future comes to mind, but Washington also likes the prospect of communications and broadcasting. Maybe someday he’ll be a basketball TV analyst.
For now, he’s still figuring out where he’ll be dribbling the ball two years from now. The relationship with Izzo and his staff, as well as the constant invitations to visit, have put the Spartans way up on Washington’s list. Now he’s working to earn an offer to the school that has left him with such a great impression.
“I like how they coach their guys,” Washington said of Michigan State. “I like how they’re like a family. They’re like a players-first program. They treat their dudes with respect, but they also tell them the truth 100 percent. They would never lie to their players. Especially Coach Izz.”
Michigan State legacy plans visit
Washington’s not the only recruit with professional athlete lineage looking at Michigan State.
Four-star Highland (Ariz.) tight end Tyler Johnson, son of former Spartans star and NFL lineman Bill Johnson, shared Monday that he plans to visit MSU.
MSU visit is set! See you soon Spartans
— Tyler johnson (@TyJohnson87) October 17, 2016
Requests for comment from Johnson and his high school coach went unanswered. 247Sports’ Sean Scherer reports that it will be an official visit and take place the weekend of Michigan State’s Oct. 29 game against Michigan.
Michigan State graduates two tight ends after this season, Jamal Lyles and Josiah Price, who have played big roles in the Spartans offense. The 2017 class brings in Matt Dotson and Jack Camper. Both have been projected as tight ends, though Camper plays primarily defense at IMG Academy (Fla.)
In focus: Michigan State commitment highlights
You don’t have to be done with 2016 to look forward to 2017. Check out some highlights from these senior Spartans commits.
1. Copley (Ohio) running back Weston Bridges rushed for a pair of touchdowns on Friday, and here’s one of them.
— Tim Bielik (@bielik_tim) October 15, 2016
2. Skyline (Mich.) receiver Hunter Rison showed there’s more to being a wideout than catching when he blocked defensive backs onto the ground and off the screen.
Lot of y'all ain't built for the league?? pic.twitter.com/0gjxd33wIC
— Hunter Rison1️⃣ (@hunterrison) October 17, 2016
3. Walled Lake (Mich.) Western receiver Cody White had two interceptions and took a punt all the way back for the score.
4. Fairfield (Ohio) cornerback Josiah Scott anticipated the play and made a heckuva TFL.
5. Lake Park (Ill.) defensive lineman Jacub Panasiuk, brother of MSU freshman Mike, is not a quarterback’s best friend.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.