Last year, Tom Izzo had a fruitful season with Michigan State. He won Big Ten coach of the year. He took a team that was unranked in preseason polls and coached them to a No. 7 ranking to end the year. After all that success, however, only one player was drafted in the 2012 NBA draft.
Such is the way Izzo coaches. His players stick around, improve and prosper. Some, like Draymond Green, are talented enough to make the next level. Rarely do you see Izzo-coached players jump prematurely to the NBA.
This season might be a bit different. Other players will have the chance to shine in the absence of Green, and some are talented enough to take the jump to the NBA.
These four players have the chance to go pro after the 2012-13 season.
Appling may be the most controversial selection on this list. He doesn't have any one aspect of his game that you could say is genuinely NBA ready, but he doesn't do anything poorly.
He was recruited as a shooting guard but has played predominantly at the point for Michigan State. He'll play more shooting guard in the upcoming season, but his time at point guard is invaluable.
NBA teams can draft Appling knowing he can play either backcourt position. If he can cut down on turnovers and improve his shooting percentage to numbers akin to his freshman year, his draft stock will soar.
But why would Appling leave? He could play with one of the best prep phenoms in the game in 2013-14 in Jabari Parker and make a run at a national title. Unless Michigan State goes the distance in 2011-12, I don't see Appling leaving.
Dawson faces a tough situation in 2012-13. He tore his ACL late last year, and although he has recovered nicely, there will be some questions about his durability.
As a small forward, he has an NBA body. Aside from high energy and crashing the boards, no other aspect of his game stands out as ready for the NBA.
His rebounding and field-goal percentage were sensational last season in just 20 minutes of play per night. He's athletic and plays tough defense. But with no jump shot, Dawson may not see high enough draft projections to take the jump.
Dawson could leave town if he thinks Parker (or any other 2013 recruit) is in line to steal some minutes,but that is doubtful.
Harris might have the best chance of these four to go pro after this year. He has an all-around game that NBA scouts love, he's dynamic in transition and he can shoot from the outside.
But with a loaded roster, will Harris get the minutes to shine this season? Izzo played Dawson, a similarly high recruit, 20 minutes per game as a freshman. Harris is one of many backcourt players this year, so his time on the court may be limited.
Izzo players always seem to stick around, but Harris is one of the highest-profile recruits he's had in recent memory.
How Harris plays on the defensive side of the ball will determine his minutes. If he exceeds his already-high expectations, Harris has a great chance of being a lottery pick in 2013.
Conditioning will be the biggest concern for Payne in the upcoming season. He's never played more than 25 minutes in a college basketball game, partly because of his lung condition and partly because of an overcrowded Michigan State frontcourt.
But there's no doubt Payne has NBA skill. He's 6'10", 240 pounds and is surprisingly agile on the block. He can block shots well, rebounds like a champ and can finish above the rim. Like most players that succeed under Izzo, his defense is also superb.
Without his lung condition, Payne would be a first-round pick. With an improved offseason conditioning program, he may be able to play more this season.
If he can average near 25 minutes per game, Payne could see a huge uptick in his draft stock.
Like Appling, though, why would Payne leave? Derrick Nix will be gone after the upcoming season, leaving a hole to be filled at center for the Spartans.
A deep run in the NCAA tournament looms for the Michigan State Spartans, and these players may stick around to make it happen.
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