Michigan State solidified its second verbal commitment from the 2015 class on Thursday night, when three-star guard Kyle Ahrens indicated he will be joining the Spartans after his final high school season.
But don’t let his star level mislead you. Ahrens is a legitimate, top-flight, up-and-coming player who will impact the program immediately.
Originally from Versailles, Ohio, Ahrens turned heads in the state tournament of his sophomore year when he led his school to an unexpected state championship berth. He showed distinguished poise at a young age, while simultaneously displaying the ability to carry his team to desired heights. That season, he averaged an impressive 21 points.
Ahrens is as complete of an offensive player as Izzo has garnered since acquiring Gary Harris. Despite his 6’5” frame, Ahrens is naturally a point guard, though he is listed at shooting guard. He prefers to bring the ball up and can orchestrate the offense but is more than capable of breaking open a game with his scoring.
The most apparent strength of Ahrens' skill set is his prolific perimeter shooting. If he is given any space, he makes opponents pay. But what separates him from many other up-and-coming, talented players is his ability to shoot accurately in a variety of ways.
Ahrens can pull up in transition, shoot after rubbing off screens or rise up within the confines of a half-court set. While he poses all of those threats, Ahrens is a patient scorer and allows the game to play out before he attacks.
For only completing two full years of high school ball, he is distinctly mature for his age.
Where he surprises people, however, is his underrated athleticism. Don’t let the shaggy hair and skinny frame mistake his explosiveness.
Ahrens actually earned the No. 3 spot in the Sportscenter Top 10 plays during his sophomore season, when he attacked the lane and dunked on a contesting defender. And he did so in the state finals, which also speaks to his fearlessness.
Ahrens excels in transition, and his jumping ability allows him to finish above the rim. Combine the athleticism and 6’5” frame with his ability to play point guard, and Ahrens provides an immediate mismatch for opposing defenders. He can blow by people, post up smaller players and is mostly revered for his outside shooting touch.
Again, the three-star label doesn’t accurately define his versatility and maturity.
Ahrens isn’t the most highly regarded recruit because of multiple factors. First, he comes from Versailles, a small, reserved town in Western Ohio. His high school competed in Division III, which immediately deprives him of playing against some of the best players in the state.
Although his school’s size doesn’t match that of the most well-known recruits, Ahrens plays on an esteemed AAU team, the King James Shooting Stars. This is the level that has allowed Ahrens to display his abilities. However, his talent has partially been overlooked due to the outpouring level of attention that his teammate, five-star guard Luke Kennard, has received from many top colleges.
Kennard will play at Duke in 2015, so certainly the hype and attention surrounding him are warranted. But Ahrens is equally impressive in many regards, despite not being mentioned in the same vein.
Lastly, Ahrens broke his leg during his junior season, which is possibly the most important recruiting year for players. That diminished his recruiting potential, and he was forced to make up for lost time.
All of those factors contributed to his three-star rating. In reality, he is more of a four-star with five-star potential.
But now, none of those ratings matter. Tom Izzo has locked up his second verbal commit from the 2015 class, alongside forward Deyonta Davis.
With many top-notch recruits within Izzo’s grasp, he already has two instant difference-makers. If he can land some of the players who have expressed serious interest in Michigan State, such as Montaque Gill-Caesar and Eric Davis, then this class will morph into one of the best in the country.
The outlook for this class is encouraging. Izzo was clearly ecstatic with the acquisition of Ahrens.
Ahrens said Tom Izzo "kind of jumped out of his chair and went nuts" when he committed Thursday night at Breslin.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) June 6, 2014
That will be a common reaction for Spartans fans after watching Ahrens and the 2015 class play in the coming years.