Branan Kearney (center) wasn't happy with his role at Michigan State, so he decided to leave after Christmas.
Losing a productive guard that contributes a handful of points in a dozen or so minutes would hurt any college basketball team, even the Michigan State Spartans.
But luckily for Tom Izzo's club, Brandan Kearney wasn't such a guard in East Lansing.
Kearney, a former Detroit Southeastern star, announced Thursday that he's leaving Michigan State (Detroit Free-Press) via a conversation with Izzo, who spoke of the issue Friday.
A transfer is presumably on the horizon.
Kearney wasn't Izzo's first defector, either.
No, the sophomore was the third guard (excluding Dwaun Anderson, who never played) to leave East Lansing in just the past three seasons. Chris Allen and Korie Lucious each transferred to Iowa State after being dismissed on separate and unrelated cases in 2010 and 2011.
When going strong, Allen is a lethal shooter with explosive athleticism. Fifteen points a night seemed easy. But Michigan State didn't always get that type of production from the up-and-down scorer.
Is Kearney's transfer a big deal for Izzo and the Spartans?
Lucious, best known for his buzzer-beating shot against Maryland in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, was on his way to developing into a speedy and elusive guard with a dagger-like shot—kind of like then-teammate Kalin Lucas.
Allen and Lucious were keys to Michigan State's offense. Kearney hasn't been, and the fact that he's leaving means very little in the grand scheme of things. With a group of young guards like Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice, Kearney's fate as a backup was essentially sealed.
He wanted to be a No. 1 option, not a secondary bench contributor, Izzo told reporters (via the Detroit Free Press).
It happens this day in age. Everybody’s listening to somebody and everybody’s wanting to be something, and you gotta work for what you want to be and earn what you want to be. In this case I think what shocked us and our players was, as Nix says, guys transfer because they’re not playing. This isn’t the case, but I think he sees his role here and he thinks he’s a 3-point shooter, I don’t know. Maybe he thinks he’s something else.
Usually your role is what you can do. If he thinks he can do that somewhere else that’s where he should be because I don’t want someone here who doesn’t want to be here and is not excited about it.
Kearney, a 3-star rated prospect in high school, entered Michigan State with Trice, Dawson and Anderson. Dawson obviously was the prize of that group, but Kearney was viewed as the No. 2 guy of that class after Anderson bolted at the last minute.
Most costly transfer?
If anything, Kearney's exit means more minutes for Dawson, Harris, Valentine, a struggling Russell Byrd and even Keith Appling, Michigan State's top guard.
Who knows, maybe Izzo will filter some of Kearney's 16.9 minutes per game toward big men like Matt Costello, Alex Gauna, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, who, like Izzo, was taken by surprise at Kearney's actions.
Nix told reporters (via the Detroit Free Press):
I didn’t know it was coming. Like coach said, everybody’s not happy everywhere. At one point of time I wasn’t happy, but usually when you’re playing you don’t want to leave so that’s kind of confusing because it kind of threw everybody off. Hopefully he makes the best decision for him I hope he’s happy where he goes.
Kearney lacked that certain quality that a lot of Spartans guards have had under Izzo: The ability to get to the rim and create shots.
Mateen Cleaves was a master. Lucas, while not as physical as Cleaves, was great at darting toward the rim. Allen was good at it, too.
Kearney just never seemed to fit. He lacked confidence and never embraced his role with the Spartans in the first place.
More minutes and opportunities for others, that's how Michigan State should view Kearney's decision to vacate his locker and look for a program that better fits his needs. He was bound to be placed on the back burner, given the up-and-coming talent at Izzo's disposal.
Somewhere in East Lansing, Keenan Wetzel and Dan Chapman are rejoicing at the news. Yes, even they'll probably see an increase in playing time now that Kearney has left the building.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81