During the past few years, "Chicago" has been a buzz word in reference to Michigan State basketball recruiting.
In the not-so distant past, Spartans coach Tom Izzo came away from the Windy City with what he wanted. In 2003, he grabbed Maywood Proviso East star Shannon Brown, the No. 3-ranked player of the year, per Rivals.com.
Brown had a dunk-filled career and was picked in the first round of the 2006 NBA draft.
Fast forward a decade, and Izzo again found himself in the thick of one of the nation's prep hoops hotbeds, this time courting the skills of Jahlil Okafor, Tyler Ulis, Jabari Parker and Cliff Alexander.
Okafor, a Chicago Whitney Young Magnet star big man, has yet to decide. As the No. 6-ranked player, per 247Sports, the 6'10", 270-pound center has his pick of the litter.
And it probably won't be Michigan State. He recently cut the Spartans from his list.
Ulis, Chicago Marian's point man, is the No. 12-ranked point guard of 2014. Izzo chased down the 5'8", 142-pound mega-mini, but was unsuccessful. Ulis committed to Kentucky.
Parker, a former Chicago Simeon sensation, enters his first season at Duke this winter. He was long thought to be a Spartans-lean, but shocked Izzo by choosing the Blue Devils during a press conference this past spring.
So it was all up to Alexander, a potential Adreian Payne-like big who could help the Spartans pick up from where the 2013 team finished. At 6'9" and 240 pounds, Alexander, the No. 3-ranked player of 2014, could have been the completing piece to Izzo's post-Jabari plans.
After all, he's losing Payne and Keith Appling, both seniors, and possibly Gary Harris, a sophomore, and Branden Dawson, a junior, to the NBA draft.
He needed Alexander to bolster his roster.
The following video was posted by Taylor Rooks, a student at Illinois and Fox Sports intern. She continues to break the latest news pertaining to Alexander's recruitment.
Alexander's move was sudden, but not necessarily surprising.
Shortly before the "I'm cutting MSU" video was posted, Izzo made comments pertaining to courting Chicago-area players.
Maybe the statement directly applied to Alexander. Maybe it didn't. But the timing was awfully curious.
“I don't want to get slapped by somebody for saying the wrong thing, as far as talking about recruiting,” Izzo said (via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press). “A lot of good players, a lot of coaches and good players — a lot of middlemen.”
For those blind to corruption in NCAA and amateur athletics, open your eyes—it's everywhere. And without putting words into his mouth or going too far with speculation, it's safe to assume that Izzo isn't into playing ball with or engaging in questionable transactions with third parties.
It's not difficult to connect the dots.
Certain people expect favors, regardless of morality or legality, in exchange for the delivery of blue-chip athletes. Now, that's not meant to establish a connection between Izzo and such behavior; it's just an example of some of the not-so up-and-up practices that some coaches may encounter.
Great for Izzo; he's walking like he talks it. As one of the faces of college basketball, Izzo is the last guy anyone would expect of wrongdoing. He's continuously praised for his four-year, family-like program. His players respect him, and they leave better than before arrival.
There aren't one-and-done scandals. No whispers of illegal benefits or cash exchanges. He runs a clean program, and sacrificing that standard just to land a 5-star kid looking for a landing pad before hitting the NBA just isn't his style.
But his comments could infuriate those along the coast of Lake Michigan. They probably don't take too kindly to being lumped into a group of seedy "middlemen." It's almost as if Izzo painted a picture of a back-alley market that governs itself.
What do you make of that?
Future in Chicago?
According to 247Sports, Izzo has interest in a handful of Chicagoland targets, including Charles Matthews, the No. 3-ranked shooting guard (No. 9 overall) of 2015. At 6'6" and 172 pounds, Matthews is developing into one of the top marksmen of his class.
He's being recruited by Kentucky and Kansas, obviously, so Izzo may not have much of a shot with him either. Kentucky and Kansas are nabbing the top-5 stars at will. The Spartans have to up their game if they want to stay in the arms race.
|Will Chicago blow off Izzo in 2015?|
|D.J. Williams||SF||4-star||Chicago Simeon||Illinois|
|Hyron Edwards||PG||3-star||Central (E. Chicago, Ind.)||N/A|
|Myles Carter||PF||4-star||Chicago St. Rita||N/A|
|Glynn Watson||PG||4-star||St. Joseph, Westchester, Ill.||N/A|
Mike Irvin is frequently mentioned when it comes to Chicago-based talent. As coach of the Mac Irvin Fire, an upper-echelon AAU program, he's directed dozens of the city's best players, taking over the tradition set by his late father, Mac Irvin, for whom the team is named.
In 2012, Mike Irvin said the following about Izzo and Chicago, per Brian Hedger of SpartanMag.com (subscription required to view).
Note: Keep in mind that Izzo was still in the hunt for Parker and in early stages with Okafor.
I definitely expect them to make a pretty strong push (for Okafor and Alexander). Coach Izzo's been in here with those guys from day one, too … just like he was with Jabari. Those guys, Cliff and Jahlil, they like Michigan State too - and with Izzo, he's going to win some and lose some. But he's always going to win more than he loses.
At the time, Irvin came off as confident and reassuring—Izzo would get some, he'd watch some go elsewhere. That's how it goes. Everyone understands that.
But Izzo hasn't landed one of his top-tier targets. He's O-fer in Chicago.
Were Izzo's comments a way to help police the world of recruiting without saying too much? Only Izzo knows for sure. One thing is clear, he's not pleased with recent results, nor is he pleased with third parties.
For better or worse, his "middlemen" comment will impact recruiting in one way or another. It'll either bring the "clean" prospects and schools to the forefront or expose those not on the up-and-up.
Izzo's future of recruiting in Chicago just got more interesting.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81