When Michigan State signed all five members of its 2018 recruiting class last November, it didn’t come with quite the same amount of buzz the previous two classes created.
Of course, those classes included the likes of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. — both preparing for next month’s NBA Draft when each is expected to be taken in the top half of the first round — and had enough depth to be included among the best in the nation, particularly in 2016.
The group that will take the floor next fall for the Spartans might be lacking in star power, however, it hardly is lacking in quality. In fact, the class was rated No. 14 in the nation according to composite rankings from 247Sports which combines the rankings from top recruiting sites.
Rivals has the Spartans’ class rated No. 11 in the nation while ESPN has them at No. 12.
Forward Marcus Bingham of Grand Rapids Catholic Central is rated highest among the five recruits while guard Foster Loyer (Clarkston) and forward Gabe Brown (Belleville) rank inside the top 100, according to Rivals. Not far behind are forward Aaron Henry (Indianapolis Ben Davis) and forward Thomas Kithier (Clarkston).
“It’s pretty clearly a strong class,” said Eric Bossi, a national basketball analyst for Rivals. “And I think it’s a class that has guys who certainly are going to be able to help out some early. But what I think what is really good about this is you got a great core of individuals who are gonna be high-level juniors and seniors most likely.”
Here’s a recap of how each finished their final high school seasons and where they might fit in next season at Michigan State.
Marcus Bingham, F, 6-11
The wiry big man helped lead Grand Rapids CC to the Class B state championship, scoring 11 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking seven shots in the title game.
He probably has the most upside of any of Michigan State’s recruits in this class as he’s nowhere near as strong as he’ll need to be to be effective in the Big Ten. At 210 pounds, he’ll need to bulk up quickly, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make an impact in his first season for the Spartans. With a 7-4 wingspan, Bingham could help fill the defensive gap left by Jackson’s departure, though expecting more than 100 blocked shots might be a stretch.
Offensively, Bingham isn’t a typical big man considering he was just 6-2 as a freshman in high school and has since grown 8 inches. He does have a good shot with some guard skills evident, meaning he’ll play the four at MSU.
Foster Loyer, G, 6-0
It’s hard to accomplish much more in high school, as Loyer led Clarkston to back-to-back state championships while earning Mr. Basketball honors as a senior. He scored 42 points in this season’s state semifinals and followed that with 40 in the championship game.
It’s clear he can shoot the ball and has a superb understanding of the game. The key for him at the next level will be proving that his size won’t be an issue and that he’ll be able to defend the best point guards in the Big Ten. He’ll be expected to do that as the backup to Cassius Winston, and if he shows he can overcome any perceived weaknesses as a defender, expect Loyer and Winston to play some together. It was something MSU did at times last season with Winston and Tum Tum Nairn, but Loyer offers significantly better offense punch than Nairn.
Gabe Brown, G/F, 6-8
A knee injury last summer cut short Brown’s AAU season, but he was 100 percent by the time his senior season at Belleville began. He helped lead the Tigers to the state quarterfinals while averaging 18.6 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.
He’s an athletic wing who can shoot the ball well and is a left-hander, which will draw immediate comparisons to former Spartan Morris Peterson. Where Brown fits in as a freshman will depend on how the rotation works out. With Joshua Langford and Matt McQuaid expected to get heavy minutes, Brown will need to separate himself as someone who can play multiple spots and put the ball in the basket.
Aaron Henry, G/F, 6-5
Another versatile wing, Henry averaged 17 points and 8.8 rebounds a game at Ben Davis and was a finalist for Indiana's Mr. Basketball award while leading his team to a sectional title.
Like Brown, he’ll have to carve out a role off the bench but the Spartans believe he might end up far outplaying any rankings he had coming out of high school.
Thomas Kithier, F, 6-8
It was a lost season for Kithier after he was forced to sit out the entire year after transferring to Clarkston from Macomb Dakota. How that affects him heading into next fall is tough to gauge, but he might have the toughest time finding a consistent role in his first season.
He’ll likely be playing the four-spot for the Spartans and could even play center in a pinch, something that could be needed if Nick Ward ends up staying in the NBA Draft instead of returning to MSU for his junior season.