June 23, 2012

Izzo Shootout: Chicago's White takes a look

EAST LANSING - The Michigan State basketball program has limited scholarship room for 2013 and 2014. But there would likely be room for Chicago Whitney Young's Paul White, if he is interested.

Young is being recruited by some of the best. But he would be in turn be interested in Michigan State, if the Spartans are truly interested in him.

Both parties had a chance to take a long look at each other on Friday during Day 1 of the Izzo Team Shootout on the campus of Michigan State University.

White, a 6-foot-8 combo forward ranked the No. 39 ranked player for 2014, played for Whitney Young during Day 1 games against Romulus High and Detroit Pershing on Friday. Whitney Young, playing without its star center Jahlil Okafor, defeated Pershing but lost to Romulus. Okafor is with Team USA, preparing for the u17 World Championships.

White was one of 31 players invited to try out for Team USA last week in Colorado Springs. White didn't make the final roster, but that didn't harm his stock as one of the top juniors in the country.

"He had a good spring and he did well with the USA trials, so I think he comes back not only with motivation to play better but also to get better," said Whitney Young head coach Tyrone Slaughter. "That's really what we want.

"I told him he didn't have to come with us here, but he wanted to come here and lead some of the young guys, so we're happy about that. He is going to be a major part of what we do this year."

White At The Izzo

Coming off of last week's intensity at Colorado Springs, White played with a bit off an on-off switch on Friday. When his switch was "on," he displayed the talent that makes him a national Top 40 player.

Against Detroit Pershing at steamy Jenison Fieldhouse, White had his foot off the gas pedal most of the time. But he came to the forefront late in the game to help Whitney Young close out a 35-30 victory over Pershing in a contest between two perennial high school powers from two of the top basketball cities in the world.

Memorable Moment: Down by five in the final :30 seconds, Pershing played a man-to-man press. White brought the ball up by himself while being hounded by 5-foot-9 muscle guard Kahlil Felder. The strong, quick, intense Felder turned White two or three times as White brought the ball up. White was equal to the task, comfortably and quickly executing crossovers and spin dribbles, highly uncommon by a 6-foot-8 guy who spent most of the game playing center in the middle of the Whitney Young zone defense.

By The Way...: Felder, the muscle point guard from Pershing, is hearing from MAC schools. Sources indicate that he has an offer from Iowa State. Felder handles the ball well, can pass, jumps extremely well and nailed a nice step-back 3-pointer against Whitney Young. He isn't getting any taller but he will battle and grind.

White vs. E.C. Matthews

White had two interested theoretical matchups in Day 1. However zone defenses and different shifts prevented him from matching up extensively one-on-one against Pershing junior power forward Justin Tillman [Tillman file video dunk]

Tillman has excellent quickness and horsepower and plays hard, similar maybe to a young Matt Trannon. Tillman was a little sloppy in the post, but any youngster with his RPMs and a willingness to work can help at least at the mid-major level.

With Tillman sharing the lane with White, Tillman made White turn up the "on" switch a couple of times.

Later in the afternoon, White's Whitney Young team dropped a 45-39 decision to Romulus and wing guard E.C. Matthews.

Matthews is ranked the No. 99 player in the country by Rivals.com. But White and the 6-foot-4 Matthews did not match up directly with one another.

Matthews has offers from Iowa, USC and most recently from Arizona. Michigan State is trying to keep Matthews warm, while continuing to position itself for A-list targets Jabari Parker, James Young and guard Demetrius Jackson.

Young's Troy High team will participate in Day 2 of the Izzo Shootout, although Young won't be with them. He is participating in a Nike individual academy in Chicago.

As for White, he again coasted through the first three-quarters of the Romulus game, as Whitney Young fell behind 33-18.

White went down with a twisted ankle between the 16:48 mark and the 8:34 mark. Earlier in the day, he went down awkwardly on the sport court surface at Jenison Fieldhouse. Slaughter said White was a bit tentative about the surface for the rest of the Pershing game.

No one would have blamed White if he had sat out the rest of the game against Romulus on the main floor at Breslin Center. But he checked back in with his team down by 15 and promptly hit his "on" switch.

White scored 13 points in the last eight minutes (running time) to cut the lead to single digits, but Whitney Young was unable to complete the comeback.

White finished with 17 of his team's 39 points.

White showed a nice in-between game, hit a floating glasser in the late, and a 16-footer off a jab step fake.

His crossover and spin-dribble drive for a lay-up cut it to 43-36 with :30 seconds left.

His best most of the day was a post-up, face-up, sweep-through drive along the baseline for a power lay-up, cutting it to 42-32. That was a big-time finish, with strong horsepower briefly added to the "on" switch.

As for Matthews, he didn't quite have the loud, power moments that he enjoyed at times in May at Spiece with The Family, but he looked smooth and under control in nailing a 3-pointer while trailing the fastbreak, giving Romulus a 31-18 lead. He also drained a 3 from the left wing.

He finished with 12 points of 4-of-10 shooting.

The left-hander also drove the lane for a tear drop in traffic, scoring off the "wrong" foot (on purpose, of course) to make it 33-18.

Paul White Recruitment

White has offers from Arizona, Baylor, DePaul, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan State knows that they have to recruit him full-blast right now in order to hope to have a shot next fall. So that's what MSU is doing.

"Michigan State is showing interest; why wouldn't they?" said Slaughter. "I'm pretty sure they have offered. He'll get a chance to tour the campus a little bit while he's here."

No one is sure about scholarship specifics. With White still more than 12 months away from narrowing down his favorites, the semantics of an early scholarship offer doesn't seem to be a point of issue at this juncture. White knows scholarship offers will be on the table when the time comes.

"I don't think there is a time table for him right now," Slaughter said. 'Based on what they have said in the family, he probably won't have a decision until the start of his senior year (in the fall of 2013) unless something just strikes him. As of right now, tentatively that's where it is."

The Rest Of It

White played on a slightly injured ankle last winter while helping Whitney Young to the regional semifinals. Whitney Young, one of the top teams in the Midwest, ran into Parker and Chicago Simeon, one of the top teams in the country. Simeon went on to win the state title.

"He is healthier than he was in February and March when he had a little ankle or something," Slaughter said. "His confidence is growing. He had a great spring in AAU, so I feel real good about him.

"We want him to work on getting stronger. Handling the ball lower and being more aggressive offensively. Those are the things we are going to need him to do for us."

Okafor Update

Okafor, also of Chicago Whitney Young, is one of six high school juniors on the Team USA under-17 squad. The team is in the Canary Islands this weekend for the Spain U17 International Invitational.

Team USA will then defend its U17 World Championship in Lithuania, June 29 to July 8.

The 6-foot-10 Okafor is ranked the No. 3 junior in the nation by Rivals.com. MSU, Ohio State, DePaul, Illinois and North Carolina are among his early favorites.

"He is doing outstanding," Slaughter said. "He has trimmed down. He is working hard to become a more imposing defender and shot blocker. What I heard from the reports out of Colorado is that he is running the floor harder on every possession. That's a maturity thing. He is putting the work in. I am just pleased."

Slaughter Likes The Izzo

Whitney Young won the Izzo Shootout two years ago, when Okafor was a freshman. Slaughter has attempted to make the Izzo Shootout a regular part of his team's summer program.

"This event is so well-run," Slaughter said. "It allows us to get some work in against some teams that we normally wouldn't see. And I'm a humongous fan of Coach Izzo, so any chance to come down and be a part of a place where they do such great things is always positive.

"I told somebody when we came in today that I come here because I love it. I'm not going to say this is my favorite school in the world because I don't have a favorite school, but I like the organization and more importantly I love the way Coach Izzo is involved. I mean he knows you, he knows you by name, he is very friendly and he makes you want to come back. He is someone who will welcome you into his home."

Notes & Observations

  • Lansing Sexton rising sophomore Trevor Manuel had a nice day for the two-time defending Class B state champions. Manuel was his usual agile self, showing good footwork on defense, in the post and in transition. He even went out and drained a 3-pointer.

    The 6-foot-9 Manuel approached Izzo after his team's loss to Cleveland Benedictine at the Breslin Auxiliary Gym and gave the MSU coach a handshake and hug. MSU offered Manuel a scholarship earlier in the spring.

  • Chicago Marian Catholic point guard Tyler Ulis was sticky-terrific on Friday. Thin and long-armed, the rising junior has recently grown a couple of inches, up to about 5-foot-9. If he keeps growing, he will likely grow right into a high-major offer.

    Ulis, the cousin of former Spartan captain Travis Walton, was scouted closely by Izzo on Friday. Walton also watched from the sidelines.

    Ulis has an excellent handle and ability to get into the lane. He is unselfish to a fault sometimes. His Marian squad would be better-served if he looked for his shot more. But his unselfishness and knack as a distributor will serve him well at the college level when surrounded by talent.

    MSU's top point guard prospect for 2014 is Tyus Jones, the best point guard in the country. MSU's interest in Ulis is seen as a back-up plan, just in case Jones gets away. MSU's interest in Ulis is similar to the Spartans' late-breaking interest in Travis Trice two years ago, and Lansing Waverly's Clayton Burch in 1996, behind Plan A target Mateen Cleaves. Burch signed with Toledo, had a great freshman season but then had to retire due to medical reasons.

    Ulis didn't look for his shot a great deal on Friday, but he can drill it. He ranks No. 12 in the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) traveling circuit in 3-point percentage at an impressive 16-of-33 (.485) while playing for Mean Streets (Chicago).

  • Kelvon Fuller, of Detroit Loyola, is a name to remember. He will be a freshman this fall. The 6-foot-7 post player is still just a puppy, but he has a nice frame and disposition and is getting good coaching. Good touch. He'll learn to play harder.

  • Saginaw High juniorJoe Powell, a 6-foot-7 slashing power forward, offers a nice combination of frame, athleticism, skill and want-to. He has the look of a major conference guy. MSU is keeping an eye on him.

  • Detroit Consortium freshman Josh Jackson had some fine moments on Friday. The 6-foot-5 rookie will be one of the best in the state for years to come. Look for him to jump onto MSU's A-list in the near future.

  • Dowagiac guard Dontel Highsmith has been coming on this off-season. He remains nicely athletic, still working to show high-major skill. Coaches are watching.

  • Grand Rapids Christian's Drake Harris is expected to be in action on Saturday. Grand Rapids Christian did not participate on Friday. Harris is on MSU's A-list for football and basketball for 2014.

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