football Edit

Going Deep: 7 Takes From The Izzo Shootout

EAST LANSING - I didn’t see every player and every game during day one of the Izzo Shootout on Friday, but - based on what I did see - here are some observations and things that I learned:

First, the commitments:

1. Foster Loyer is still Foster Loyer. The Michigan State commitment from Clarkston continues to make a habit of making difficult medium-range and long-range shots look easy.

He was steely in a 42-23 victory over Belleville at Jenison Field House.

2. Loyer’s teammate, Taylor Currie - the 6-foot-9 junior who committed to Michigan earlier this week - was tough, gritty, skilled, effective.

I still compare him to Brian Cardinal, but an inch taller. He looks like Cardinal in the way he spots up to shoot a 3, and the way he extends himself trying to get loose balls, and with the occasional hip check he might throw. Effective player.

He plays like Cardinal but looks more like Tom Herzog’s thicker brother, if he had a thicker brother. He doesn’t play like Herzog.

Solid get for Michigan. He’ll be a pain in the rear for people. I can see why Wisconsin wanted him. He is like former Badger Joe Krabbenhoft when loading up to ram someone in the back while setting an up-screen.

Currie smacked Belleville’s Gabe Brown across the face when Brown drove to the rim early in the game. Currie didn’t offer a hand of apology or help. He walked away like he meant to do it. That’s okay. But 20 minutes later, Brown got even by drilling Loyer into the basket standard on a hard foul, with Loyer’s ribs hitting hard into the support stand. Loyer missed the free throw, which is a rare, rare, rare occurrence.

Currie’s chippy play is effective, but he’ll have to learn that sometimes his teammates will be the ones that pay for his tactics.

3. As for Gabe Brown - he had a good day. The 6-foot-7, left-handed wing forward from Belleville is a rising-stock player.

He is quick for his frame, sells the jab step well, plays pretty hard. He makes defenders honor the jab step, and covers ground with the sweep-through.

He has a good shot release, although he is still working for the best ways to find openings for it. His shot release when shooting free throws is pure, which is an indication that he CAN become a terrific perimeter shooter, in time.

Other eye-openers:

+ He’s slippery in transition. He showed a good crossover to his off-hand for a shot attempt in the lane while getting fouled.

+ Looked comfortable in attempting a 3-pointer off a pick-and-flare action.

+ Nice hesitation dibble in getting into the lane for a step-through, drawing contact and getting to the line. His handle plus athleticism and length make him a tough person to guard.

+ Steal, then behind the back dribble while accelerating. He was fouled before he could get out into the open court, but that move is why Tom Izzo sees a little bit of Morris Peterson in him.

He isn’t a finished product, but his developmental slope is a positive one.

He has offers from DePaul, Missouri, Oakland, Detroit most MAC schools and some Horizon League schools.

Michigan State is watching him closely.

“He is attacking the basket a little more than he did during the season,” said Belleville head coach Adam Trumpour. “We played at Toledo the other day and he really went at Keion Brooks, who is a Spartan recruit as well.

“We don’t want him to settle as much for threes, like he did during the season, and not live and die on those makes and misses, and just play.

“Defensively, his intensity is starting to ramp up. He’s an excellent player with room to grow, which is exciting.

“The good thing is he is a kid that wants to get better. He is in at 6 a.m., he’s working hard as a student.”

On Michigan State:

“We’re hearing from them quite a bit, and Michigan, and mid-majors. Purdue got real noisy all the sudden. I know it was him and his late dad’s dream to come here to Michigan State and we definitely want that opportunity for him.

“He’s going to get good opportunities because he’s a good kid who’s working.”

Brown had a strong start but finished cold in a loss to Clarkston at Jenison Field House, going 2-for-12 with 5 points (Loyer had 16 points and one assist).

But Brown bounced back with a hard-working, semi-explosive game against Marian Catholic at the main floor in Breslin, in front of Izzo.

(Players are not available for interviews while on campus for events such as the Izzo Shootout. SpartanMag instead focuses on speaking with the recruits' coaches.)

4. As for Brown’s teammate, Davion Williams impressed on Friday. And he’ll try to do the same in football cleats on Saturday.

Michigan State offered Williams as a defensive back in football in May.

Williams is also a three-star basketball recruit, although he has made the choice to pursue football in college.

The 6-foot-2 Williams was one of the top pure athletes at the Izzo Shootout on Friday, if not the best. He is strong, quick, explosive to the rim and might be the best leaper in the field. Izzo watched him closely.

Izzo told him on Friday that he would welcome him at Michigan State basketball practice when Michigan State football season ends. That caught Williams by surprise, and impressed him.

Williams promptly went out and played stellar defense in a 42-37 victory over Chicago Heights Marian Catholic.

At one point, Williams corralled a Marian Catholic guard into the corner, and closed on him, and closed on him and closed on him until he forced a five-second violation, right in front of Izzo. Then after the whistle, Williams snatched the ball from the Marian Catholic player, let out a victorious yell, and gave Izzo a nod.

Williams scored the game’s final points with a steal and dunk.

Williams has football offers from Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

5. Old Redford High school (and Mark “Rocket” Watts) vs. Davison High School (and Terry Armstrong) marked the best, most interesting matchup of the day.

Armstrong, a 6-foot-5 wing guard, is ranked the No. 49 player in the country by

Watts, a 6-foot-2 lead guard, is ranked the No. 72 player in the country.

They often guarded each other, and went back and forth trying to one-up the other.

Davison ended up victorious, 47-33. Watts probably scored two-thirds of his team’s points, and became red hot midway through the second half.

The matchup never became heated or super-dramatic, as has been the case in past cage matches such as Marcus Taylor vs. Brent Darby in the late 1990s, or Kelvin Torbert vs. Ricky Paulding in the early 2000s, or Cassius Winston vs. Jalen Brunson in 2014.

Watts is a feast-or-famine type of shooter from 3-point range. When he gets hot, it’s difficult to cut him off. He has a killer ability to shake loose with a series of crossover dribbles, ending with a step-back move. He doesn’t always nail those 3s, and will be coached at the college level to change his shot selection. But when it comes to shake torque in a phonebooth, he’s got that, plus the ability to blow by and finish with creativity around the rim.

Some day, he needs to fall in love with a medium-range shot off of one-dribble, rather than looking for 3s and takes to the rim. His ability to get a half-step past a defender can open the window to a nice medium-range game if he chooses.

In the meantime, he’s a dangerous scorer at the high school level, with offers from Michigan State and Michigan.

He was cold at times in his team’s 3:20 p.m. game against Godwin Heights. But he erupted for four terrific finishes in the lane against Davison, changing speeds with an excellent handle and short-area burst.

He reminds Spartan coaches of former Michigan State guard Keith Appling

When Watts became hot, Armstrong was able to answer. Armstrong has an advanced medium-range game. He is a terrific blend of frame, athleticism, skil and focus. He has a nice-looking shot, off the dribble. And looks like a college player with his ability to attack the rim.

He got loose for a breakaway hatchet jam in the second half against Old Redford, the strongest finish I saw all day.

Armstrong has bounced around a few schools in the last three years.

Armstrong, formerly of Flint Carman-Ainsworth, spent part of last year at a prep school out of state but didn’t stay long enough to play a game with them. He returned to mid-Michigan and enrolled at Davison High, outside of his home city of Flint, but sat out the basketball season.

College coaches are waiting to see how he does academically once he gains a measure of stability. In the meantime, coaches are watching.

“I’ve only been fortunate enough to coach him for the last three or four weeks,” said Davison high school coach Robert Hatten. “He’s been in our school for three or four months, but I didn’t get on the court with him until June. I’ve been very impressed with how he puts the team first. Very unselfish player. He’s been very fun to work with.

“We coached against him when he was at Flint Carman-Ainsworth and I’ve always thought defensively he was a pest. He’s long, athletic. He gets a lot of deflections. He’s engaged, he’s focused.

“On the offensive end, there are no worries. Everyone can see what he can do. Defensively, I’ve been very, very impressed with him. We’re very fortunate to have him. He has come in and bought into the team.”

6. Benton Harbor rising sophomore Carlos Johnson (6-6) put on a strong display in his team’s 53-49 loss to Marcus Bingham and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

The long, tall, high-jumping, 6-foot-9 Bingham has a Michigan State offer, after enjoying a breakthrough spring with Spiece Indy Heat.

Johnson is a physically mature player, for a guy who just finished the ninth grade. He is a plus rebounder, has terrific basketball IQ, and was seen leading huddles at time outs. Each of those things is enough to make Izzo smile.

Bingham was good, not great, against Benton Harbor. But his immense upside showed on one sequence when he moved laterally in ball screen defense, extended out like a crane to block a 3-pointer, then corralled the loose ball and took off with the dribble (drawing a foul).

Memorable Moment: On one crucial missed free throw by a Benton Harbor player, Johnson went up high, over Bingham’s back, to get his hands on a rebound and keep the ball alive - which eventually resulted in Benton Harbor retaining possession. It was a killer/winner moment for Johnson, not accepting that the long, 6-foot-9 Bingham would automatically box him out in the case of a missed free throw.

Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the final :30 seconds that could have given Benton Harbor the lead.

“He’s getting stronger, mentally and physically,” said Benton Harbor head coach Corey Sterling. “He had an awesome freshman season, and we’re looking more from him this season on the perimeter.”

Benton Harbor is implementing a new five-out offense, a position-less type of system, to take advantage of Johnson’s versatility.

“We want to develop those ball handling skills,” Sterling said. “He is a good ball handler, and we want him to keep building on that. He can play all five positions at our level and that’s why I love him so much, and he handles it well because he is very unselfish.

“He was more in the post last year. He’ll still be in the post at times, but we’re trying to develop a total Carlos - inside, outside, playing good defense.

“This game today (against Grand Rapids Catholic Central), he missed some shots in close, but that’s what we’re here for, to work on things.”

Johnson’s high hoop IQ was on display during transition. On more than a few occasions, he would look up and take inventory of transition numbers AS SOON AS HE GAINED POSSESSION of the ball. If he had 3-on-2 or something favorable, he would press the advantage and manufacture a good shot, whether it be for himself or a teammate.

“Exactly,” Sterling said. “And that’s his biggest talent - his IQ. He was first-team all-state just because he has a great IQ. He knows the game of basketball, and he’s only 15-years-old.”

How is he so advanced in that area?

“He grew up watching a lot of game film,” Sterling said. “He’s a gym rat. He’s one of those kids studies the game of basketball rather than play video games.

“He can jump well. Playing against a couple of Division I players for Grand Rapids C.C., I was proud of him. These games are just making him grow up more and more, and that’s why a lot of coaches are heavy on him.

“He is very unselfish, he can rebound and lead the break, or he can get out and run like a deer, and jump. He’s our leader too. He’s young, but he’s a vocal guy.”

Who is he hearing from?

“Michigan State heavy, Saddi Washington for Michigan, DePaul, Notre Dame and U of D,” Sterling said. “He’s playing with The Family in 15u so he will probably get a lot more after they go down to the Peach Jam.”

7. Caleb Hodgson, a 6-foot-9 post player from Dansville, is a rising junior who is going to emerge on some recruiting wish lists in the near future.

Hodgson was honorable mention Class C all-state as a sophomore, last season for Dansville.

In a 43-42 loss to Lansing Everett at Jenison Field House on Friday,

“He’s getting more physical and he’s really getting comfortable with the outside shot,” said Dansville head coach Cole Feldpausch. “Last year, he hit maybe 20 3-pointers. We talk about my goal for him is to hit 40 next year, maybe 40-plus. So he is really stretching his game to be more than just an attack-the-basket type player. He can face up well. He’s almost our best shooter right now, and he’ll continue to improve.”

He also showed a willingness to take a power step to the rim.

He is similar to Garrick Sherman, although he hasn’t yet achieved a level of back-to-the-basket skill that Sherman had as a high school senior, but Hodgson has time to work on that. And Hodgson is ahead of where Sherman was as a face-up shooter.

Is Hodgson hearing from Michigan State?

“Yes, yes,” Feldpausch said. “I know Dwayne Stephens reaches out. Pretty regularly.”

Offers have yet to come, but attention heated up on June 15 when the contact period began for rising juniors.

“I don’t think he has an offers yet, but a lot of contact started this week from Michigan, Miami of Ohio, Xavier, Stanford last night and other schools,” Feldpausch said.

Hodgson at an MSU football game last fall. (Courtesy Twitter).
Hodgson at an MSU football game last fall. (Courtesy Twitter).