When he feels the need to, which is several times a day, Kyle Ahrens takes dozens of jumpers at a time; and if he fails to hit roughly 70 percent of them, he decides to start again from the top.
What else is there to say? He’s a perfectionist who’s not a big fan of wasted efforts.
“I’m a guy that has to get it right,” said Ahrens, the latest and second addition to Michigan State’s 2015 recruiting class. “I work as hard as I can to get it right. In a gym, shooting 30 shots, I have to end on a make or it’s no good.”
Considering the fact that the Spartans need another marksman, the nearly 6’6,” 200-pound winger’s description of work habits should appease a fanbase mourning the loss of Gary Harris, one of the top shooters to set foot in East Lansing.
And interestingly enough, Ahrens wants nothing more than to fill that void for coach Tom Izzo, who was lucky to have Harris for two years.
“I’m really familiar with guys before me, especially Gary Harris,” said Ahrens, a 3-star recruit, per 247Sports, and will-be-four-year varsity starter out of Versailles, Ohio. “I have watched him quite a bit. He’s an amazing player…he can shoot the ball, or if a guy comes up and tries to defend, he’s taking it up and dunking it.
That’s the kind of position I plan on moving into. I’m coming in as 3 but I’m moving to the 2, kind of like what Gary did. He’s someone I do look up to—just looking at him and seeing how much he improved in just two years [at MSU]… I hope to improve in the same way.”
As of early June, Ahrens was the No. 35-ranked shooting guard of his class, per 247Sports. As the below highlight reel will demonstrate, he has range and knows how to create shots behind screens and off the dribble. And at nearly 6'6," he's fine with "posting up and taking advantage of mismatches."
A possible hint of Harris with a dash of post man?
The Spartans will take it.
It’s About the Fit
We’ve heard it time and time again: The “family atmosphere” and “feel” tend to weigh in heavily when it comes time to make a decision. Of course, that makes perfect sense for athletes—they’re the ones essentially giving themselves to a team for up to four or five years.
“Ever since I first saw Michigan State, I knew right away it’s the place that I wanted [to be],” Ahrens said. “I took the time to look at other colleges and see if they fit in more, but there wasn’t one that fit in for me better than Michigan State.”
Finding players who genuinely want to be a part of a program, not just play ball, is like striking gold for coaches. According to Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal, Ahrens said that Izzo “kind of jumped out of his chair and went nuts" when he committed in person this past Thursday.
The feeling’s mutual. Ahrens is excited about being directed by a man who’s been to six Final Fours, won a national title, and claimed 11 Big Ten championship banners—seven from the regular-season, four from the conference tourney.
“Izzo? I love Izzo. I can’t wait to play under him and have him as a coach,” Ahrens said. “I know he’s going to make me the best that I can be on and off the court: The best version, the best teammate—everywhere. I know he’s going to make me the best person that I can be.”
So…About That Commitment
Ahrens comes from a large, tight-knit family; and sometimes keeping secrets can be incredibly difficult, especially when one shares everything with their parents and siblings.
However, the third-youngest of the six Ahrens kids (four brothers and a sister) did his best to sit on the news until he felt comfortable spreading it. On Thursday, accompanied by his mother and father, Ahrens hit the road to East Lansing, intent on giving Izzo the word, which happened at around 5:30 that evening.
Promise made and mission accomplished. Then, he zipped his lips until noon Friday, after which time he spoke with regional media and did interviews (like this one).
“It was pretty tough to keep it quiet,” said Ahrens, laughing, of the roughly 18-hour silence. “I sat there and talked to my mom and my dad, and talked to them about how happy I was to commit. I was so excited to talk about it with my family, and not having my family know and then going to announce it [meant something].”
Appreciative of his family's support, Ahrens has received a wave of well wishes from those in his hometown, which is an equally satisfying feeling he says.
"I'm so blessed to live in this community," said Ahrens, who is a young man of faith. "Everyone congratulates me and says how they're so proud."
Comfortable at various positions, Ahrens hopes to “shoot like Ray Allen and take the ball to the rack like LeBron” in the near future.
Admiring two of the NBA’s greatest certainly bodes well for imitation—James is arguably one of the greatest all-around players in the pro history, while Allen is basically the undisputed king of shooting (don’t argue that).
“If they’re stepping back, I’m hitting the jump shot—I know that I can hit that,” Ahrens said of his defenders. “If they’re going to get physical, I’m going to the rack, getting the foul and one.”
Ahrens plans to start an “agility camp” Monday, June 9. Nearing full health, he hopes to really benefit from the upcoming rehab activities which run through July.
“I’m 85 percent on my [left] leg—there’s a little ache, but it’s where muscles meet and they’re muscles that I haven’t used in a while,” he said in a reassuring tone.
Finally, as mentioned above, Ahrens comes from a large family. This year, he’ll be a senior—and his younger twin brothers will be freshmen who have the pleasure of competing alongside big brother on the varsity squad.
“It’s going to be really neat and it’ll be an amazing experience,” Ahrens said. “They go into the gym and work with me all of the time. We have a chemistry that no one else has. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome.”
Translation: Watch out boys, it’s going to be a long year.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.