Before leaving East Lansing for San Diego where the Spartans will play North Carolina in the much-anticipated Carrier Classic on Friday night, Tom Izzo took a few moments Wednesday morning to reflect on the first three signees in his 2012 recruiting class.
The Spartans received national letters of intent from 6-foot-10, 240-pound power forward Matt Costello, 6-foot-8, 245-pound power forward Kenny Kaminski, and 6-6, 210-pound guard Denzel Valentine on the first day of the early signing period for basketball.
"We are real excited about our class so far, because what we did is addressed some needs and that is the most important part of recruiting. It is not only who you get, it is do the people you get address the needs that you have. We feel like they've done that and we have three very good students, very good guys, and guys that are dying to be here. I think that's a big key.
"We have two bigger kids that address some needs there and of course our local guy (Denzel) Valentine, his father (Carlton Valentine) played here so that is exciting for me since I was here when he first came and now we've got his son. That tells us we are both getting old."
Michigan State is still waiting on a decision from five-star shooting guard Gary Harris. Harris will sign before the end of the early signing period (Nov. 16). The Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern star, who is ranked No. 25 overall and No. 3 at his position by Rivals.com, is expected to announce his decision between Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, and Kentucky within the next 48 hours.
Valentine and Costello are the two highest ranked players in the state of Michigan in the Class of 2012. Valentine is the No. 80 overall player and No. 13 shooting guard in the senior class according to Rivals.com
"Denzel brings to us the ability to do a lot of different things," said Izzo. "His versatility is his strongest suit. He can actually play some point, he can play the two, he can play the three, at 6-5 or 6-6 he can guard a variety of people. He has great body strength. He has a tremendous basketball IQ. As his shooting continues to improve, and his defense has to improve like all freshman, I think he too has a chance to be a very solid performer here at Michigan State. With his family background, he is another guy that has a passion to be here."
Valentine led his Lansing Sexton to a Class B state championship last fall and the Class B semifinals the previous year as a sophomore. Valentine averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 5.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game as a junior.
"Denzel Valentine is a full circle guy," explained Izzo. "His dad was here when I first came here, we recruited him out of DeMatha High School, one of the greatest high schools. In fact, he was just inducted into their hall of fame. Both his sons have played, one at Oakland and now we get Denzel here. Both of them had very good high school careers."
Valentine committed to Michigan State during the second week in August two summers ago over scholarship offers from Georgetown, Wisconsin, Michigan, Butler, and Utah among others.
The reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Michigan, Costello is a skilled big man that can score both inside and out. Costello is ranked the No. 82 overall player and No. 24 power forward in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com.
"Matt Costello brings us an emotional big man, a guy who plays extremely hard," Izzo said. "He is 6-9, 6-9 and half. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter. I've seen him have some great games both in the summer and last year. He is well-coached in high school. He is versatile and he can do a lot of things. He is not just a low post player. He is a pretty good passer. He can step out and shoot the ball some. But he plays hard and that is what I love about Matt Costello."
Costello led Bay City Western to the Class A semifinals as a junior. He averaged 19.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game in 2010-2011. Costello set a school record with 19 double doubles as a junior.
Costello committed to Michigan State two days after Valentine 15 months ago. The Bay City Western standout also had offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Southern Cal., and Butler.
One of the top players in Ohio in 2012, Kaminksi is at his best as a pick-and-pop four. Kaminksi is one of the premier 3-point shooters in the senior class.
"Kenny Kaminski is kind of a throwback player," said Izzo. "He is a big guy, but he can shoot the ball. He has played football in high school. He is a guy that we think is going to be an incredible stretch the defense kind of person. He can really shoot the ball and that is his strongest suit. We are going to have to keep working on his quickness, his rebounding, his defense just like all freshmen have to learn. As far as a guy that has a skill, he is a guy that has an incredible skill. He has a great passion to be here, great passion for the game, he works out relentlessly."
Kaminski is ranked the No. 84 overall and the No. 25 power forward in the Class of 2012. He averaged 19.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game as a junior at Medina High School, where he also played tight end in football.
Kaminski committed to the Spartans on the final day of July two summers ago. The Medina standout chose Michigan State over scholarship offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona State.
Kaminski will miss his senior season at Medina because of a labrum tear he incurred during football season. Kaminksi will undergo surgery to repair his shoulder on Nov. 16. He will require four to six months of rehab following surgery before he is 100 percent.