Point guard Lourawls “Tum-Tum” Nairn is the headliner of Tom Izzo’s second consecutive recruiting class that saw him whiff on several big name recruits. Although Nairn doesn’t have the same number of recruiting stars as Tyus Jones or Tyler Ulis (both class of 2014 point guards who spurned MSU) he does have some valuable intangibles.
The most valuable asset that Tum-Tum brings to the table is his leadership, which isn’t a skill that usually generates a lot of recruiting hype, but is something that Tom Izzo values. Almost all of Izzo’s successful teams had players like Draymond Green or Mateen Cleaves who were the unquestioned leaders of the team. Nairn looks to be next in line as the leader of a Michigan State Final Four team.
In a recent interview, Mateen Cleaves praised Nairn’s intangibles and went as far as to say Nairn reminds him of himself because of his tireless effort and drive to win championships. That’s high praise for an unheralded recruit who has yet to step on a college floor, but it goes to show the type of kid Tum-Tum is.
As far as his actual game is concerned, Nairn’s biggest strength is his explosiveness and ability to get to the basket. He also has great court vision and distributes the ball well, which makes him a prototypical point guard.
What kept Nairn from being a more sought after recruit was his lack of size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and outside jumpshot. He will need to hit the weight room and bulk up at least a little bit before the season starts if he hopes to see significant minutes because players his size simply can’t survive an entire season in the B1G. His jumpshot will be another focus for him this summer, because he will find driving lanes a lot harder to come by if he can’t keep defenses honest with a decent jumper.
The current Spartan roster is an interesting mix of veterans who will be relied upon more than in past years, and talented young players who need experience in order to improve. Nairn most likely won’t find himself in the starting lineup since senior Travis Trice should have the point guard spot locked down, but he will probably see significant minutes as the primary backup to Trice.
Trice and Nairn could turn out to be a deadly one-two punch at point guard for the Spartans because their games differ so greatly. Trice’s calling card is his 3-point shooting, which is one of the areas that Tum-Tum struggles and Tum-Tum has explosive speed that allows him to get to the basket, which Trice is rarely able to do.
Another way to utilize Nairn’s skillset is to play him alongside Trice, allowing Trice to run off screens and get open looks while Nairn runs the offense. This is an intriguing option because it gives MSU more options offensively, and since the Spartans don’t have a clear-cut shooting guard right now it is a realistic scenario.
I would caution anyone who sets limits on what they believe Tum-Tum Nairn is capable of doing in his freshman year. The MSU roster is constructed in a way that would allow a breakout freshman to take the reigns of the team because there is no obvious stars, and anyone who is as hard working as Tum-Tum has a chance to surprise people.
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