Michigan State won’t be able to completely replace Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne in 2014, but someone will need to step up and become the go-to guy if the Spartans want to compete for another B1G championship. Enter Branden Dawson.
Dawson’s physical talent has never been an issue in his time at Michigan State. He stepped on campus and instantly became the most explosive athlete on the team. He used that athleticism to electrify fans with windmill slams on breakaways his first three years at Michigan State but has yet to completely live up to his potential.
Injuries have been an issue for the 6-foot-6 power forward throughout his time in East Lansing. Dawson tore his ACL in the last game of the regular season his freshman year, ending his season and leaving fans wondering if he would ever regain his explosiveness.
Dawson ended up making an Adrian Peterson-eque recovery and was ready for the start of his sophomore season. His speedy recovery was encouraging for Spartan fans, especially since he didn’t look to have lost any of the explosion that made him special. The second year wasn’t all good for Dawson though, as he posted the lowest field goal and free throw percentages of his career and he wasn’t as aggressive as he was pre-injury.
In his junior year he struggled with consistency, but when he was locked in he showed flashes of dominance. Dawson played especially well following his embarrassing self-inflicted hand injury in late January. Throughout the B1G Tournament and NCAA Tournament Dawson not only dominated the offensive glass but he also showed the ability to be a consistent offensive weapon in the half court.
If Dawson is going to become the go-to guy for Michigan State in 2014 Dawson will have to continue improving as a scorer. He doesn’t have to become a dangerous perimeter shooter like Adreian Payne did in his senior season, but he will need to develop an 8-10 foot jumpshot to keep defenders honest. If he can do that, he will become a dangerous offensive player, not only in the open court, but also in the half court.
The other main area that Dawson will need to improve is his consistency. Spartan fans are sick of hearing about it, but it’s true. For whatever reason Dawson goes through stretches where he completely checks out of the game and makes no impact. MSU was able to survive last year when Dawson would disappear because of all the other talented players on the team, but the Spartans won’t have that luxury next year. Dawson can’t become the go-to guy for Michigan State unless he can eliminate those stretches.
Branden Dawson has been one of the most entertaining players to watch since he came to Michigan State in 2011, but in his senior season his team will need him to be more than fun to watch. They need him to be “the guy”. I believe Dawson has all the physical tools to do it, and the pressure of his senior year will inspire him to elevate his game and become the player Michigan State fans have been waiting for him to become.