Javon Bess enters Michigan State with approximately zero hype, barely any stars and a reputation as a relative unknown.
That’s a good thing—especially for Michigan State, which welcomes Bess as one component of the Tum-Tum-Nairn-and-everyone-else 2014 class.
According to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, Bess is the No. 199-ranked prospect and No. 46-ranked small forward of the upcoming graduating bunch. By its standard scale, 247Sports ranks Bess at the No. 56 small forward and No. 8 talent in Ohio.
But don’t let that fool you: The 6’5,” 185-pound winger has tremendous talent. In fact, he’s one of the most overlooked recruits in the Midwest—excluding Chicagoland, an area rich with diamonds in the rough.
OCC-OHIO DIVISION Basketball All-conference team 2013-14 Player of the Year: Javon Bess Coaches of the Year: Tony Staib— Gahanna Baseball (@GahannaBaseball) February 25, 2014
Hidden skill? Not really hidden—more along the lines of “yet to be showcased.” Bess, a star at Gahanna Lincoln (Columbus), has the ability to score from along the perimeter, the post and everywhere in between.
Given the situation, playing with his back to the basket isn't out of the question either.
Tom Izzo’s next group of freshmen isn’t the topic of exuberant discussion. That’s fine. That happens when there isn’t a headlining recruit. However, dismissing the three-man rotation—four with walk-on Kenny Goins—altogether would be a mistake.
This is a three- and four-year player grab. Izzo develops.
Again, Bess' upside can't be stressed enough. Don't write him off before he arrives to East Lansing.
Remember, highlights are highlights.
Guys don't post lowlights.
That being said, there is a lot of flattering footage of Bess imposing his will upon the Amateur Athletic Union circuit.
The kid can ball. That's very clear.
Judging by available film, Bess' strengths appear to be all over the place. He doesn't come across as a guy who does one thing better than the rest, but he has enough of a mix to excel at the collegiate level.
As the accompanying video demonstrates, Bess takes full advantage of his length. Finishing misses with putbacks makes up a small portion of his offensive arsenal.
He's capable of supplying a presence in the frontcourt if needed, but by no means is he the next Branden Dawson or Raymar Morgan—two of Izzo's best rebounders.
Good news, though. The ability to pick and shoot is strong with this one. With a couple of years of Izzo's abuse, he'll become a hardened scorer. At the moment, he's rail-thin and wouldn't last a half against Wisconsin's bruising coverage.
The tools are there. If you're the type to compare, think of Durrell Summers, a skinny freshman who bulked up before turning into a jump-shooting, dunking machine.
Bess appears comfortable while shooting. Summers was definitely comfortable doing that. He also appears comfortable going baseline and attacking the rim. Summers liked doing that too.
He's pretty skinny—we already covered that.
If he's going to get buckets in the Big Ten, he's going to have to hit weight training and gain about 20 pounds. The Spartans are known for their rigorous, football-inspired cardio sessions with Izzo. Suiting up with helmets and pads is never is out of the question, especially if the coach is trying to make a point.
Michigan State lacked a certain amount of "scrap" this past season. A rebirth of toughness is necessary. Bess joins at just the right time. He'll go from a skinny kid to a battle-strong, but skinny frosh in no time.
Defensive footage of Bess is scarce.
Maybe there is a reason for that.
Predict Bess' freshman year:
After viewing no fewer than five clips, Bess didn't appear to be a stop-first, score-second kind of guy. Of course, a lot of the footage comes from AAU tournaments. The AAU is a score-first league and Bess may have simply been exploiting weaker opponents with heavy doses of points.
Playing defense? Hmm...why do that when you can light up a team with jumpers and dunks?
In no way is this meant to suggest that he doesn't play defense. Don't think of it that way. It's just an observation made from available material.
Bess can pass and run, but he's not going lead the team in assists. There isn't any "Magic" in the way he dishes the ball. Point A to point B.
Izzo has Denzel Valentine to do all of that.
Sure, Bess is raw. Very raw. However, the framework is there. At this point, with each miss and/or commit, Izzo's judgment gets called into question by Spartans fans waiting for 5-star-decorated athletes to say "Yes."
No harm there. Expectations are always high.
With that said, they shouldn't say "No" to the upside underdogs either. Those have made Izzo teams go round for years.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81