The Michigan State basketball team will need to replace a lot of production at the guard position in 2014 with the departures of Keith Appling and Gary Harris.
One of the prime candidates to step in and contribute at guard in 2014 is Alvin Ellis III (AE3 as I prefer to call him). Ellis averaged just 7.9 minutes per game in 2013, but he will be given ample opportunities to expand his role this season. AE3 has all the tools to take advantage of his opportunity and become a difference maker for the Spartans in 2014.
Ellis has the size that you want in a premier shooting guard at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. That type of size gives him the versatility to stay on the floor and play multiple positions for Tom Izzo. As Denzel Valentine showed this past season, having guards who are versatile can be invaluable to a team.
It’s also extremely important that Michigan State guards are able to play in transition. Ellis showed last season that he is more than capable of making crisp passes and finishing at the rim in the open floor. Ellis will have to continue to improve his ball handling skills if he wants to become truly lethal in the open court, but he has the intangibles to do just that.
The most important thing that Tom Izzo looks for in his players is their defense. Most freshmen aren’t able to play the kind of defense that Izzo demands, but Ellis proved that he can defend up to Izzo’s standards. Ellis will be given more minutes this season due to the departing seniors, but if he wants to lock down a starting job, he will have to continue to mature on the defensive side of the ball.
Something AE3 doesn’t have a ton of is game experience. He played just 7.9 minutes per game last season, but he was productive in the minutes he did play. Ellis’ best game as a Spartan came against Michigan at the Breslin Center. He played just 11 minutes but scored 12 points on 4-4 shooting from the field including 2-2 from deep. That performance shows not only his ability to be an efficient scorer, but also that he isn’t afraid of the big stage.
Ellis never looked like he didn’t belong when he was on the floor last season, as many freshman do in the B1G. He never panicked, and he understood his role was to play good defense and be smart with the ball. That role will change in 2014, as he will be asked to be more of a playmaker when he’s on the floor. Given his calm demeanor in his freshman season, he will have no problem shouldering more of the scoring load.
Going into 2014, most people will be looking to Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson to emerge as superstars for the Spartans, but MSU fans shouldn’t sleep on Alvin Ellis III. AE3 could become a household name in the B1G this season if he continues to live up to his potential.
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