July 7, 2010

Izzo makes progress with Branden Dawson

AKRON, Ohio - Michigan State made some major progress with one of the nation's best perimeter prospects for the rising senior class of 2011 last week when Branden Dawson of Gary, Ind. visited the MSU campus last week.

Dawson said Michigan State is running strong as part of his top five, and gaining strength.

"Oh, it went well," Dawson said with enthusiasm after Wednesday's practice session at the LeBron James Skills Academy. "Coach Izzo, you know he is a great guy. There is a family atmosphere there. The players are like brothers. They communicate so well together, on and off the floor. It was real cool."

As for his favorites, Dawson said, "Purdue, Indiana, Georgetown, Michigan State and UCLA."

When asked if one of those schools is the leader, Dawson said, "Not right now. I'm still open, but I'm liking Michigan State a lot."

Dawson's trip to East Lansing last Wednesday was his second visit to MSU. He attended the MSU-Ohio State basketball game at Breslin Center in February.

"The one time I went up there for a game, I didn't have a chance to sit down with Coach Izzo," Dawson said. "But this time, it was real great. That was the longest I've ever sat down with Izzo."

The 6-foot-6 Dawson, of Lew Wallace High School, is ranked the No. 25 player in the nation by Rivals.com, and No. 7 at the small forward position.

This week, he is participating in the NIKE-sponsored events in Akron at Cleveland. Following three days of drills, scrimmaging and playbook installation at the University of Akron, Dawson and the rest of the 75 campers headed north on Interstate 77, Wednesday afternoon for the 45-minute drive to Cleveland State University. The campers will divide into eight teams for a two-day mini tournament on Thursday and Friday.

NCAA coaches were not allowed to attend the Akron portion of the week-long event, but they are allowed to attend games on Thursday and Friday in Cleveland. Tom Izzo and at least one other member of the Michigan State coaching staff are expected to attend games in Cleveland.

When Dawson looks up in the stands at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State, he'll know more about Izzo as a person than he would have a week ago.

"When I first got there, I didn't know anything about Michigan State," Dawson said. "And then by the time I left, I learned a lot of stuff from Coach Izzo and the players and stuff like that.

"He is loyal to Michigan State. That's one thing that you can see, and that showed me a lot.

"There are the coaches that say they can do this, they can do that. But then you have a guy like Izzo that has done it already, who has won the championship and gone to Final Fours and can get you to the NBA."

Dawson spent time in Izzo's office, and also in the film room.

"We sat down and talked," Dawson said. "He ran over the plays with me. He wants me to the play the two/three, like Durrell Summers. So he said, 'Watch what Durrell does.' Some of the plays they run, we run on our AAU team, so it was interesting to go through it with him, real cool.

"He went over some of their offense, including how they score off of the tip-off, broke it down and everything. It was real cool.

"I went to go look at the weight room and some of the facilities and around campus. It was great. I loved it. I loved it."

Does that mean Michigan State is close to getting a commitment from Dawson? Not necessarily.

"My senior year," Dawson said, when asked he plans to make a decision. "I'm probably going to go late, not the fall, maybe all the way into the spring. I want to wait and take all of my visits and see how it goes."

Michigan State has commitments from two rising seniors for the class of 2011 in 6-foot-3 wing guard Dwaun Anderson and 6-foot-5 wing guard Brandan Kearney. There is room for one more "big" wing for the class of 2011. Dawson would fit that mold.

Backcourt players Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen will be out of the program next year when Anderson and Kearney arrive in East Lansing. MSU would like for Dawson to be part of that group.

MSU signed one combo guard and one wing forward a year ago in 6-foot-1 Keith Appling and 6-foot-8 spot-up shooter Russell Byrd.

When the Anderson/Kearney class hits East Lansing in the fall of 2011, the Spartans will have Korie Lucious as a senior, Appling as a sophomore and Byrd as a sophomore (plus Austin Thornton as a senior, potentially as a walk-on).

"I know all of the players, and probably Korie the most," Dawson said of the MSU roster. "Korie Lucious has spent a lot of time in Gary. He has lived there. So he and I connected the most. It was real cool."

Dawson confirmed that he is considering leaving Lew Wallace High. Dawson has reportedly expressed interest in transferring to a high school in Las Vegas.

"It is something I'm thinking about, but I'm still open right now, trying to see, focusing on my skills, getting better this summer," Dawson said.

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