Tom Izzo didn’t have to worry much the past two seasons about the shooting guard position since he had All-B1G first teamer Gary Harris manning it, but 2014 will be a different story. With Harris’ departure, the Spartans will have to find a starting shooting guard from a pool of players who lack experience or aren’t true two-guards.
Since Tom Izzo likes to shake up his lineups and play guys at several different positions (just ask Denzel Valentine) it’s likely that five or six different players see time at shooting guard next season. I’ll break down the three players who should get the most time there and try to predict who the starter will be.
ALVIN ELLIS III
As I have previously written, I believe that Alvin Ellis III will eventually become a star for Michigan State. Ellis has all the tools to become a special player, but his lack of experience could hurt him in the competition for the starting job.
Ellis played just under eight minutes per game this past season so the sample size of his play is limited, however, in the time he was on the floor Ellis was impressive. What Ellis did the best in his playing time last year was know his role. Last year’s team was stacked with talent so Ellis’ role when he was on the floor was to protect the ball and play defense. He played that role well and never tried to do too much.
When Ellis did look to score he was usually efficient. He scored 12 points against rival Michigan on a perfect 4-4 shooting. He also shot over 46 percent from deep as a freshman so he has the ability to score from all over the floor.
Alvin Ellis III has the skills to be the Spartans’ shooting guard, but he will have to continue improving his game this summer if he wants the starting job.
Although I expect Trice to be the starting point guard for the Spartans next season, there is a chance that Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn could beat him out for the job. That would leave Trice as the backup point guard, and Izzo would have to find playing time for him at other spots as well. Seeing that Trice is listed at a generous 6-foot, playing anything but guard is out of the question so shooting guard would be that spot.
One thing that Trice has proven during his time at Michigan State is that he can flat out shoot. He has made over 40 percent of his 3-pointers in all three of his seasons at MSU, including a career-high 43 percent last season.
At the end of last season Trice showed the ability to make plays in ways besides perimeter shooting. He attacked the rim more often and made some clutch mid-range jump shots. Those additions to his game will serve him well if he gets significant time at shooting guard.
By the time I’ve previewed every position I will probably have mentioned Denzel Valentine in all of them except for the center position. To say Valentine is versatile is a vast understatement, so he would have no problem playing shooting guard next season.
The strongest part of Valentine’s game is his passing, and although most shooting guards are more focused on scoring, having two guards who are elite ball distributors would make the MSU offense tough to defend.
Valentine also vastly improved his jump shot this past season hitting almost 40 percent of his threes, so he can provide some scoring punch.
Valentine will be a starter for Michigan State in 2014, it’s just a matter of Tom Izzo finding the spot that utilizes the most of his potential.
Alvin Ellis III will earn the starting shooting guard spot next season. Ellis showed some talent last year, and with an entire summer to improve his game he will become a go-to player for Michigan State in 2014.
Related article: MSU basketball: Point guard position preview
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