Michigan State Basketball: How Kenny Kaminski Fits into Spartans' Title Plans

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIJanuary 15, 2014

Kenny Kaminski is making waves in East Lansing, one 3-pointer at a time.
Kenny Kaminski is making waves in East Lansing, one 3-pointer at a time.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At the high end of the spectrum, Kenny Kaminski is another A.J. Granger-type scorer who’ll help push Michigan State to the national championship.

At the low end, the Spartans redshirt frosh is a sporadic burst machine with a fluctuating value.

Although he averages just 5.9 points per game, Kaminski is in the beginning of an upward trend—three-point shooting has been his specialty, evidenced by his 12-for-17 stretch during the past five games.

Throw in a 15-point outburst during an 87-75 overtime victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and the legend of Kaminski is set to unravel at escalated speeds.

At 6’8” and 225 pounds, Kaminski possesses exceptional range for a slightly larger player. He won’t give Tom Izzo 15 to 18 every night, but he’s definitely capable of doing so at the right times.

Sounds familiar?

Granger was the prototype for Kaminski.

At 6’9” and 230 pounds, Granger had tight-end size combined with the stroke of a shooting guard. As a senior in 1999-2000, he booked 9.5 points per game and hit 45 percent of long-range attempts while propping the Spartans from Point A to Point B. 

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Kaminski…Granger, Granger…Kaminski

25 Mar 2000:  Forward A.J. Granger #43 of the Michigan State Spartans sinks a three-pointer late in the game against the Iowa State Cyclones during the Midwest Regional Final of the NCAA tournament at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.  The Spartans won 75
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It seems as if Kaminski rises to the competition and embraces challenges. He’s had to earn his minutes after residing in Izzo’s doghouse due to early academic issues, but he’s done well now that he’s had time to integrate into the rotation.

After blowing a 17-point lead, Michigan State needed an extra session to complete its 72-68 win over then-No. 3-ranked Ohio State. The close call at the Breslin was all the Spartans needed to kick into overdrive.

With a quick jump in the conference race on the line, the Spartans turned to Kaminski’s hot hand to help lessen the sting of the Aaron Craft-led Buckeyes attack. Kaminski played just 16 minutes, but he went 3-for-4 from distance and contributed with a rebound.

OK, so it’s only been a couple of games—no need to crown him just yet, right?

That’s true.

However, taking a look at Kaminski’s potential isn’t a mere passing of time. Now important due to injuries, his skill should be further analyzed and adapted to Izzo’s game plan. Guard play dominates March, but as Granger showed in 2000, a big-man assist from 3-point land often eases tension.

In three of four March Madness games, Granger dominated the competition with a pair of 19-point sprees and one 18-point effort. During that same stretch, he shot 7-for-14 from long range.

That’s what a hot hand can do. Kaminski is priming himself to do the same.


Kenny Kaminski isn't polished, but he's progressing.
Kenny Kaminski isn't polished, but he's progressing.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Granger wasn't just an excellent shooter.

In addition to swishing from the corners, he was good for nearly 30 minutes per game, shot better than 89 percent from the line—and he grabbed 5.3 rebounds for good measure. 

That's a well-rounded game. Far from a superstar, Granger was a timely, relatively unsung hero on both ends of the floor. 

Experience helped Granger, who eventually understood Izzo's ways and expectations. However, Kaminski is a mere frosh; he'll need time to develop into an overall threat. 

Izzo said the following about Kaminski's future (via MLive.com's Gilian Van Stratt).

You guys watched him all last year in practice and God, that kid can really shoot. The bright lights haven't fazed him so far. As things are going to happen now, he will get on the scouting report and he won't be a surprise. He is going to have to do more to stay on the floor. I don't know where that's going to take us.

According to Van Stratt, Izzo said that Kaminski provides "instant offense" and that with a little seasoning, should improve on the boards. 

Surrounding Talent

Fourteen years ago, Izzo had title-worthy talent that took care of business. This year, he's in the same boat with different faces. 

Head-to-head comparisons could be made, but until the 2013-14 wins it all, measuring old vs. new is a game of what-if?

For entertainment's sake, let's go ahead and do it anyway. 

Back then, Izzo had Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves running the backcourt, along with Jason Richardson running the wing, Andre Hutson tending the paint and marksman Mike Chappell filling the net.

Today, Izzo has Keith Appling, a senior who could channel his inner-Cleaves and get Michigan State to the last day of the season, and sharpshooter Gary Harris, one of the finest scorers in the land. 

Assuming he returns to full health, Izzo also has one of the premier bigs in the NCAA, Adreian Payne. Dunk-a-thon Branden Dawson is there, and so is Denzel Valentine, a multifaceted athlete who does a little bit of everything. 

All in all, the rosters are about equal, minus the banner. 

Granger was a spark plug that supplied an extra boost. He wasn't the mainstay or go-to like Cleaves. However, he was important and cast the mold for what Kaminski could become in time.

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81


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