Michigan State targets lift Meanstreets to Run-n-Slam championship
Fort Wayne, Ind. - Four players with Michigan State recruiting interests were key figures in the crowning of the latest Bill Hensley Run-n-Slam All Star Classic champion, Sunday.
Plan A 2022 target Jalen Washington of Gary (Ind.) West Side High scored 14 points - in the post, on the glass, and facing up - in helping Chicago-based Meanstreets to an 80-76 victory in the 17u Championship Game over Grand Park Premier UA RISE (Central Indiana), at the Turnstone Plassman Athletic Center.
Point guard Kareem Rozier, a 2022 prospect from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s who began hearing from Tom Izzo last summer, scored 8 points for Meanstreets.
Point guard R.J. Taylor, a 2023 prospect from Grand Blanc, had 8 points and eight assists for Meanstreets. Michigan State has expressed interest to Taylor through Taylor's high school coach. As a 2023 prospect, he is not yet eligible to receive phone calls from coaches. But Michigan State, Houston and Liberty have reached out through his coach. He reciprocated by making phone calls to coaches at Houston and Liberty. He received a scholarship offer from Rhode Island.
Wing guard Ty Rodgers of Grand Blanc had 4 points in the title game while battling muscle spasms. The 6-foot-6 Rodgers was a force all weekend. Michigan State offered him a scholarship last year, but the Spartans aren't recruiting Rodgers full-bore.
Washington, Rozier and Taylor will be heavily-scouted by Michigan State in the weeks ahead as the Spartans decide on scholarship offers. Michigan State has been recruiting Washington hard for months. He’s an apex target.
Washington is a well-rounded offensive player, but is not yet a college-ready prospect. He needs to add strength and improve his ability to score through contact. Grand Park Premier forced him into turnovers with blind-side digging and double-teams.
Washington is a good shot blocker and rebounder. His back-to-the-basket skills are good. Washington’s face-up shooting, out to 3-point range, is good, headed toward excellent.
Washington’s lateral movement versus ball screens is good. He has a lot of tools, and is still growing into his frame.
Meanstreets is rising as one of the top NIKE programs of 2021. That means Washington will get his share of heavyweight matchups in the weeks ahead, beginning in Dallas at the first EYBL event of the year in two weeks.
“Winning this tournament is a pretty big accomplishment,” Washington said. “We haven’t won Speice (Run-n-Slam) ever. It’s the third try, but we got it.”
Purdue and Michigan State are regarded as the leaders for Washington, with Indiana, Ohio State, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Penn State trying to make up ground.
SpartanMag.com sees Purdue as the favorite. His eyes light up just a little brighter when talking about Purdue.
THE POINT GUARD CROP
R.J. Taylor and Kareem Rozier are interesting prospects as Izzo and his staff try to decide which point guards to pursue for 2022 and ’23. In addition to Taylor and Rozier, Izzo will be scouting Detroit Jesuit point guard Sonny Wilson this summer. Wilson had a strong weekend while playing for The Family 16u team at the Run-n-Slam.
Michigan State is also recruiting Sonny Williams, a 6-foot 2023 point guard out of Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame Prep. The Spartans also have an eye on Malik Olafioye, a 6-2 guard out of Ecorse, among others.
Sonny Wilson and Sonny Williams had an interesting matchup on Saturday, going head-to-head at times. They have similar names, similar games, and they’re both high on MSU’s recruiting radar.
In that game, Williams scored 4 points while Wilson rang up 16. Both Sonnys showed excellent quickness.
Sonny Williams, the guy from Detroit Jesuit, hit three 3-pointers in the game - including one from the top of the key, one from the right wing versus a zone, and one from the left wing in transition in a victory for The Family.
Williams’ Illinois Wolves team was playing without star wing Cam Christie, who sat out with an undisclosed ailment. Michigan State offered Christie during the winter. He is the younger brother of incoming Michigan State freshman Max Christie.
As for Wilson, he scored 22 for The Family 16u in an elimination loss to All Ohio Red on Sunday morning.
Wilson had four 3-pointers against All-Ohio Red and looks like his game is ready for the grassroots scouting season.
“I’ve gotten better at creating my shot off the dribble, getting my teammates involved and attacking the basket,” Wilson said. “I’ve been attacking the basket way more and since I’ve been doing that, it has created a lot for myself and my team.”
There were no coaches present at these Run-n-Slam games, other than new Oklahoma head coach Porter Moser, whose son plays for the Illinois Wolves. With a family member participating, Moser received a waiver by the NCAA to attend. He was decked out in Sooners garb.
Wilson wasn’t showing off for coaches this weekend, but he got up for the battle against Sonny Williams.
“Whoever is in front of me, I want to show them that I’m better than them and come out and compete,” Wilson said. “ At the end of the day, on the court, I’m going to kill you. But off the court, it’s all love.”
As a sophomore, Wilson isn’t eligible to receive phone calls from coaches, but he is aware that Michigan State will be watching him this summer.
“It’s always a blessing to play in front of college coaches,” he said. “That’s what many kids dream of, and that’s my goal to make it to college.”
CURTIS WILLIAMS, TOP 100 POTENTIAL
Wilson’s AAU teammate, Curtis Williams - a 6-foot-6 forward from Birmingham Brother Rice - is emerging as one of Michigan State’s top targets for 2023.
Williams is a sweet-shooting wing with a good, strong build for a small forward. He has Top 100 national potential for the class of 2023. He received an offer from Maryland last summer. Michigan State coaches scouted him in person during the winter of 2020, prior to the pandemic. He’s grown an inch since then, and his game has grown too.
In addition to nice shooting form from long range, Williams displayed a savvy drive and step-through maneuver through traffic for a nice deuce via a clearout against the Illinois Wolves.
“We were up 20 and we were basically trying to stall the clock,” Williams said. “When I got the ball on that one, I knew he couldn’t guard me. So I hit him with a little hesi, and stepped through.”
Williams is feeling the recruiting attention from Michigan State, heading into the summer evaluations and June’s opening of direct communication.
“My (high school) coach usually tells me when to call them (the Michigan State coaches),” Williams said. “We have like a weekly plan to talk. I talk to DJ (Dwayne Stephens) and I talked to Coach Fife. I talked to Izzo a couple of times. I haven’t had a Zoom with them yet but I was planning on it.
“DJ says he likes that I’m versatile, that I can check the one through five, I can shoot the ball. I just have to work on finishing.
“My coach says he heard from North Carolina, Marquette, Michigan.”
TAYLOR AND ROZIER
Taylor and Rozier were an entertaining backcourt duo on Sunday, with Taylor forging quite a story during the championship game.
Taylor, a grade younger than his new Meanstreets teammates, came off the bench on Friday and Saturday, behind the older Rozier.
Taylor played less than half of the game during the first five games of the tournament. However, Meanstreets coaches began using Taylor and Rozier together as a tandem more in the championship game. It worked well.
Taylor’s playing time increased dramatically in the championship game. He was instrumental in answering Grand Park Premier’s second half surge and righting things for Meanstreets.
Taylor had six assists in the final 11 minutes of the game, some of which were dazzling. He repeatedly delivered the ball with great timing and perfect accuracy, right into the shooting pocket, for his teammates.
Quite frankly, it's doubtful whether Meanstreets would have rallied to win this game if it weren't for Taylor suddenly stepping forward to quarterback things at a quick pace.
“Credit to R.J.,” Washington said. “He’s always hitting us up with some nice dimes.”
After a season in which Michigan State sorely missed the passing ability of Cassius Winston, and labored through a season in which Rocket Watts and Foster Loyer were never able to deliver passes up to the Spartan standard, Izzo is understandably interested in Taylor. His court vision is excellent.
Meanstreets assistant coach George Baker, who served as the head coach for the title game, said Taylor was a difference-maker in the championship round.
“He just always makes the right play,” Baker said. “That’s why Grand Blanc won the state championship - his leadership, his ability to get guys involved, his ability to make plays on both ends. That’s just who he is.”
Does Taylor have the size and quickness to defend his position at the college level, something Loyer struggled to do? Based on Taylor’s defensive aggressiveness at the high school level, and his thirst for picking up his man full-court, 90 feet from the basket, Taylor has more defensive dog in him than Loyer, and more quickness. Taylor is probably an inch taller than Loyer.
Taylor matched up at times with Purdue guard commitment Braden Miller in the championship game. Miller tested Taylor off the dribble, and away from the ball. Taylor hung tough. He was solid on defense.
“He (Miller) is definitely a great player,” Taylor said. “His pace is good. He’s strong. I feel like I held my own defensively. I felt I got after it. He’s a player you can learn from, how he comes off the ball screen, uses his body. He’s a really good player and hopefully we can have a few more matchups in the future.
“I feel like my game is growing, and I’m gaining confidence too. It’s a whole different game from the high school game but I feel good about where I’m at and I’m going to keep trying to expand my game.”
The 5-foot-9 Rozier heard from Izzo last June 15, the first day coaches were allowed to contact recruits for the class of 2022. Talks have continued.
“It’s going great right now,” Rozier said. “I plan to have a visit some time in early June and I’m very excited for that. I talk to them a lot, like I have for the past couple of years. I just have to keep working it and see what happens.”
Rozier has an offer from Mississippi Valley State, through head coach and former Detroit Piston Lindsay Hunter.
“Recruiting process is going great,” Rozier said. “I just have to be patient. Very excited.”
They’re all waiting for their chance to play in front of coaches in June. And the coaches are eager for it as well.