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.
These things seldom go to plan. Not even if it’s your birthday.
Jaren Jackson Jr. saw his decision rushed a bit by the early posting of a pre-planned interview with ESPN. He tweeted once, deleted it, then tweeted again at 8:49 a.m. local time.
— Jaren Jackson Jr. (@therealjnari_) September 15, 2016
On the day the 5-star La Lumiere (Ind.) forward turned 17, he gifted Michigan State basketball a commitment to the program. Per ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, a late recruiting push that included Tom Izzo visiting Jackson at school right after his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance helped to push the Spartans over the top.
Sean Scherer of 247Sports documented the late change in talks with sources Wednesday night that spurred him to make a pick in favor of Michigan State.
Now the Spartans have gotten their 2017 class underway with a pledge from the No. 22 player in the nation, a 6-foot-10 stretch forward, a 2016 FIBA U17 world champion who happens to also be the son of Jaren Jackson, a former Georgetown star and 13-year professional player, most notably for the San Antonio Spurs.
Not a bad set of credentials. But what does Jackson actually bring to the hardwood? For starters, he’s got the motor of a BMW i3 and the stride of an antelope. Just look at this play in which he finishes a smooth move to the basket, then turns around and halts a fast break at the rim.
That’s the kind of play that leaves coaches salivating. When Jackson scores, he’s the farthest from the other basket of all his teammates, yet he’s so quick to turn around and beat them all down the court.
For one, it shows the effort you’re going to get from Jackson, but it also highlights the benefits of length. Those huge strides allow him to cover a lot of ground with each step, and his massive wingspan makes him a hassle around the rim.
In 21 games on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer, Jackson averaged 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Spiece Indy Heat. He shot 45.5 percent from the field, a very solid number considering 36.8 percent of his shots came from 3-point range.
About that jump shot — comparisons to other players make scouting easier, but Jackson’s jumper is pretty unique. He lofts it up so delicately that it comes down softly on the rim, as if he were tossing a beach ball. The follow through on his shot is low, but his height combined with the speed of his release under pressure seems to offset it.
Jackson’s combination of versatility and size doesn’t come around often. That, along with having the tutelage of a former NBA guard and the level of competition that La Lumiere provides, means Jackson might just keep on improving on what catapulted him as high in the rankings as he is now.
Open the floodgates. Sound the alarms. Brace yourselves.
OK, maybe don’t overreact to that extent. But typically, the first commitment of a class sets the stage for more, especially at a point when most 5-star prospects in the 2017 class still remain uncommitted.
Right near the top of the list sits Xavier Tillman, a 4-star in-state forward from Grand Rapids Christian. Tillman’s mother, Tanya Powell-May, told Landof10.com that Jackson’s decision does not hurt Tillman’s chances of choosing MSU.
In fact, it might help, as the two of them played together on the Nike circuit this summer. They might both be listed as power forwards, but Tillman is a bruiser in the post while Jackson flourishes on the wing. They certainly don’t occupy the same space.
The same goes for Marquette and its recent commitment from 3-star big man Theo John. John typically plays the five spot, and the Golden Eagles, according to Powell-May, feel his commitment could help them land Tillman.
“(Tillman is) their No. 1 priority regardless of position,” Powell-May said of Marquette. “They were hoping to get Theo John to complement Xavier.”
So it’s Michigan State and Marquette joined by Purdue, one of the teams that was hoping to land Jackson. The Spartans have the next chance to impress, as Tillman arrives on campus for his official visit Friday morning.
He’ll attend class with an MSU player, then meet with the academic advisers, strength coach, nutritionist and visit the business school. He’ll watch the football game against Notre Dame on TV with the team since it’s a road match.
“We’ve been to tons of Michigan State football games, so that wasn’t really necessary,” Powell-May said. “We know what that’s like.”
Powell-May said Tillman is “finally getting close to a decision,” which comes as a relief to both of them. He’s scheduled to announce on Sept. 30. This weekend’s three-day visit will be yet another opportunity for the Michigan State staff to show Tillman just how much they want him.
Beyond Tillman, there’s his friend Nojel Eastern, a 4-star guard from Evanston (Ill.) against whom Tillman has played in various tournaments since they were in fifth grade. The two of them visited Purdue together and are both considering the Boilermakers and Michigan State. Tillman’s mother feels they go well together.
“They’re both just really good players and would complement each other because of their style,” Powell-May said. “Both of them are super unselfish, but they just work hard, and they’re just really high-basketball-IQ players.”
Brian Bowen, a 5-star wing and La Lumiere teammate of Jackson, is another top Spartans prospect. Don’t expect Jackson to be actively recruiting him, though, as Jackson told MLive.com it annoyed him when players did that with him.
Two 5-stars from California whom MSU head coach Tom Izzo visited earlier this week, Gary Trent and Brandon McCoy, are high priorities as well.
The Final Five
Not the gymnastics squad, but the group of teams 4-star receiver KJ Hamler is still considering. Michigan State is on the list, announced Thursday, alongside Arizona, Iowa State, Oregon and Penn State.
The 5-foot-9 speedster plays for national powerhouse IMG Academy, where one of his teammates is Spartans tight end commit Jack Camper. Unfortunately, Hamler sustained a torn ACL in his first game at IMG this season.
Originally from Michigan, Hamler has visited multiple times and picked up an offer all the way back in 2014. For a glimpse of his agility, check out this punt return from back when he was at St. Mary’s Prep in Michigan.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.