What if? Reflecting back on Michigan State basketball’s 2020 and 2021 recruiting misses and what could have been

new balance


In 2023, things are looking quite bright for Michigan State basketball. The Spartans just made their first Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament since 2019 and are considered one of the favorites to make the Final Four this upcoming season.

However, while watching Emoni Bates play well for the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA summer league squad, I’ve been reflecting on that era of MSU basketball recruitment, not just with Bates, but with some other names that were linked to the Spartans around that time.

Below, I take a look at four players who were heavily linked the Spartans during that era, and where they went since choosing not to come to MSU, and also some thoughts on what could have been.

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PG Jalen Terry

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last team played for: DePaul

College stats: 5.8 points, 2.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds per game

Analysis: Jalen Terry committed to the Spartans on April 2, 2019, but de-committed in October of that year after Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield was credited with flipping the point guard. Terry struggled in his first year at Oregon, then followed Stubblefield to DePaul where he has been a ‘sometimes’ starter for the Blue Demons.

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I think this one worked out for MSU, because A.J. Hoggard kept developing and now looks like one of the better true point guards in the Big Ten, but back in 2021-22, the Spartans brought in Tyson Walker to run the point (another move that worked out, but maybe not as expected). Walker was the starting point guard all year, but it became clear pretty quickly that the Spartans needed a more traditional point guard, and that could have been a great opportunity for Terry. With Izzo’s ability to develop point guards who have some physical limitations (given that he was one himself as a young player), it’s hard not to wonder what could have been if Terry came to East Lansing.

SG Karim Mane

Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Last team played for: Delaware Blue Coats

G-League stats: 4.8 points, 1.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds per game

Analysis: Remember Karim Mane? The 5-star shooting guard from Quebec was linked to Michigan State basketball for months before opting to enter the NBA draft. While he was a little older for a college recruit, this is one where I really winced when he made the choice, because I had watched his tape and felt he was not ready for the NBA and could have really used some coaching and development time under Izzo.

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Mane and Terry were supposed to be the jewels of MSU’s 2020 recruiting class, but that never came to fruition. Instead, Mane went undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft, signed a two-way deal with the Magic, where he severely under performed. He only spent two years in the G-League before being waived in December of 2022. At this time, I’m not even sure Mane is playing basketball professionally in any capacity, which is a shame because he definitely had some NBA-level abilities.

F Emoni Bates

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last team played for: Eastern Michigan (now with the Cleveland Cavaliers)

College stats: 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists

Analysis: This is one that I’m sure Michigan State basketball fans will cringe at, but the reality is, while it wasn’t the smoothest journey, Emoni Bates looks like he will be a solid NBA player moving forward, in some capacity. He’s looked really good in summer league with the Cavaliers, where he has averaged 16.3 points per game.

It’s still hard not to wonder what could have been if Bates came to MSU as was projected for years instead of pulling his commitment and heading to Memphis where he struggled, and eventually Eastern Michigan where he put things together finally.

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Bates is a phenomenal scorer, something MSU was missing for a few years until the emergence of Tyson Walker last season. His absence was felt for two years as the Spartans struggled to find their ‘go-to’ scorer who could push them over the hump, and it could have really elevated that squad to have his lethal scoring and playmaking in the fold.

C Enoch Boakye

Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Last team played for: Arizona State (now with Fresno State)

College stats: 1.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.2 assists

Analysis: Another player who de-committed from MSU, Boakye was a talented 5-star center who opted to head to Arizona State instead of Michigan State, where he would have been the cherry on top for a stellar recruiting class that already had Max Christie, Jaden Akins, and Pierre Brooks (and Tyson Walker coming in).

The Spartans struggled with center play that year, with Marcus Bingham playing much better but still probably better off in a more hybrid role, the Spartans could have really used a more traditional center like Boakye coming off the bench in spells, as Mady Sissoko was still very much developing and Julius Marble, a talented offensive player, had a few deficiencies.

Boakye instead will now transfer to Fresno State after a few disappointing seasons with Arizona State.

Story originally appeared on Spartans Wire

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