At noon today, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo will introduce the two newest members of the Spartan hoops family, Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman.
The addition of the 6-foot-10, 275-pound Nix and the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Sherman give Michigan State fill a significant area of need for the Spartans in the frontcourt.
Nix is a big-bodied center who feels at home in the paint and enjoys playing with his back to the basket. Surprisingly agile for his size, Nix dedicated himself to shedding some of the baby fat that kept him from showcasing his quick feet and post moves on AAU circuit until last spring.
Nix has often drawn comparisons to former Missouri star Arthur Johnson, who finished his career at Mizzou as the program's all-time leader in rebounds, blocked shots, and just the second player in Big 12 history to record more than 1,700 points, more than 1,000 rebounds, and more than 200 blocked shots.
Johnson, like Nix, prepped at Detroit Public School powerhouse Pershing High. And both players share some similarities including a knack for rebounding and surprising quickness for their body types. But Nix is more of a true center than Johnson at the same age and the 2009 Spartan signee is taller than his predecessor.
When Johnson signed with Missouri he was a consensus Top 50 player. Despite being further along at the same age, Nix has not had the hype that Johnson enjoyed as a senior.
Rivals.com ranks Nix the No. 117 overall player in the Class of 2009 and the No. 16 center in the senior class.
The Pershing senior is ranked higher by other recruiting analysts. Those higher rankings may be reflect the work Nix has put in to re-shape his body since his junior season at Pershing. Nix has some more work to do in order to maximize his potential.
Rivals.com senior writer Justin Young was one of the first recruiting analysts to recognize the upside in Nix as a player. Young began to notice Nix at a time when other analysts were focused not on Nix but on his two summer teammates DaShonte Riley (Georgetown) and Donnovan Kirk.
Young had a chance to watch Nix play in some of the same tournaments last spring that led Michigan State coaches to offer the Pershing star at a time they appeared to be cooling on other in-state prospects like Riley, Kirk, and James Still.
Nix was unranked during those early tournaments. By the end of summer, Nix was the highest rated in-state player ahead of Riley (No. 121) and Kirk (No. 148).
The Spartan commitment validated his status as the top in-state player for 2009 with a strong showing at the Peach Jam. During the late summer event, Nix played well against some of the top players in attendance including highly-rated big men Alex Oriakhi and [/db]DeMarcus Cousins[/db], both national Top 25 players.
Nix is the frontrunner for the Mr. Basketball Award in the state of Michigan for 2009. If he can help guide Pershing back to the Class A title game at Breslin Center next March, Nix will be awfully difficult to beat for the award.
SpartanMag.com caught up with Young on the eve of the beginning of the early signing period for players in the Class of 2009 for his take on Nix. And it is clear that Young sees a lot of the things in Nix that Michigan State's coaches see.
"Nix is one of the more intriguing players at his position nationally," said Young, "because he is so big but so light on his feet. He moves well and he has great hands to boot. In fact, his hands are outstanding. Once he gets his body into tip top shape, which I'd imagine will come after a year or two in college, he could be a major force."
Current freshman Draymond Green has made dramatic conditioning gains during his first summer at Michigan State. If Nix can follow suit, and there is no reason to believe he will not be able to, he could have a significant impact as a true freshman.
SHERMAN IS TOP PLAYER IN OHIO FOR 2009
Michigan State has done well recruiting the state of Ohio during the Izzo era. Current Ohio Spartans included Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Travis Walton.
Graduation will take Walton, a two-year captain, from Michigan State at the end of the 2008-2009 season. But Izzo will welcome another basketball standout from the state of Ohio in Kenton High School's Garrick Sherman, the consensus top player in the Buckeye State for 2009.
Sherman, who hails from the same region in Ohio as Jamie Feick, one of the most skilled big men in the country, he also look to be an excellent fit with a traditional center like Nix who quite easily resists the temptation to develop an over-affinity for playing on the perimeter.
Sherman has excellent ball skills. He has an advanced face-up game. He also has solid post-moves and the ability to finish with either hand. While Sherman may not possess the upper tier athletic ability of a Top 5 center, he more than makes up for it with his feel for the game and his ability to finish.
Rivals.com senior writer Jerry Meyer is one basketball recruiting analyst that believes that Sherman will bring a lot to Michigan State.
"I love Sherman's length and high skill level," said Meyer. "He is comfortable with the ball in any spot on the court and has the ability to either put it in the hole or get the ball to the right person with timing. It is all just a matter of getting stronger as far as figuring out just how high a ceiling Sherman has."
Rivals.com ranks Sherman the No. 8 center and the No. 63 player in the Class of 2009.
That rank is impressive considering that Sherman plays for an AAU program, the Columbus Basketball Club, which does not get the exposure as some of the more well-travelled summer programs.
But Sherman's rank is certainly merited. He more than proved himself against some of the nation's best players at the NBA Top 100 camp last summer.
"At the NBA Players Top 100 Camp, he
impressed with his scoring ability," said Meyer. "With limited touches he was still able to score in a variety of ways, including with his off hand."
A THIRD SPARTAN FOR 2009?
Nix and Sherman are pivotal additions to the Spartan basketball program during a year where Goran Suton, Marquise Gray, and Idong Ibok are each seniors.
But a pair of big men is not the only thing on Michigan State's recruiting wish list for 2009.
The Spartans would also like to add an Alan Anderson like wing to their 2009 Class. And Racine (Wisc.) Horlick's Jamil Wilson is the player Michigan State has identified as the remaining piece to the 2009 recruiting puzzle.
Wilson is done taking official visits. He has been to Texas, Oregon, and Michigan State. And the player Rivals.com ranks No. 92 in the senior class appears to be on the verge of making his college decision.
In recent interview with the Racine Journal Times, Jamil Wilson's father James Wilson indicated that his son had trimmed his list to four schools – Michigan State, Oregon, Texas, and Marquette – and that he hoped that his son would sign with a school during the early period which begins today.
"I think it would be beneficial and advantageous for him to sign now and not leave himself hanging out there forever until the next signing period in April,''
James Wilson was quoted as saying in an article printed on November 11.
Even though Jamil Wilson appears to be leaning toward making a commitment and possibly even signing during the early period, do not expect the school that receives Wilson's signature to make that information public.
It is the wish of Jamil Wilson and his father to hold off on making a public announcement until March, 8. That date is significant to father and son as it is the birthday of Jamil Wilson's late mother Carolyn Wilson.
The early signing period begins today and a majority of the top players in the 2009 class will fax their letters of intent to basketball offices around the country today. Players have until Nov. 19 to sign and deliver their letters of intent. If they fail to meet the Nov. 19 deadline, recruits will have to wait until the late signing period for basketball which begins on April 15 and ends on May 20.
On the eve of the early signing period, Jamil Wilson had yet to sit down with his father James and decide where he was going to play.
"It is something that my dad and I haven't worked out yet," said Wilson on Tuesday evening. "I haven't made my choice yet. I have been on visits, I have been to the schools that are recruiting me, but I need to work out with my dad what is the best place for me."
Stay tuned to SpartanMag.com for signing day coverage throughout the day includign Tom Izzo's press conference as well as analysis of Michigan State's 2009 recruiting class from Jim Comparoni and Paul Konyndyk.