Michigan State was a team led by freshman, but injuries throughout the season caused any veteran leadership the Spartans had to disappear.
Eron Harris, Tum Tum Nairn, Alvin Ellis III and Matt Van Dyk all contributed in different ways so let’s hand out grades to the Spartan upperclassmen.
Matt Van Dyk: C+
Van Dyk didn’t wow anyone this season with his play, but he had more value than most may think. His lack of minutes make it hard for him to stand out, but Van Dyk made the most of every opportunity he got. Sure, he wasn’t much of a threat to score, but his hustle, willingness to play defense and ability to box out made up for it. In Miles Bridges’ absence early in the season, Van Dyk filled in nicely averaging 15.4 minutes, two points and 4.6 rebounds. Van Dyk’s season averages were 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 7.3 minutes per game. MSU didn’t need him to score, but he played his role nicely and gave value to a small team.
Alvin Ellis III: C+
After a slow start to the 2016-17 season, Ellis III came alive at the start of Big Ten play. In the first two games of conference play, he scored 20 points in an overtime win against Minnesota and 16 in a 61-52 win over Northwestern. Ellis III relied a little too much on the 3-pointer this year, but he shot 36 percent from beyond the arc, which is respectable. His senior year highlight came against Ohio State on Valentines Day, where he scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc en route to a 74-66 win. He became a more reliable threat as the season went along and that is exactly what the Spartans needed. He made his fair share of mistakes, but he helped MSU more than he hurt them this season. He will not be heading to the NBA, but I can see his game transitioning overseas.
Tum Tum Nairn: C
The biggest knock on Nairn is his shooting ability. He worked a lot in the offseason to better his jump shot, but it still wasn’t where it needed to be this season. However, he did knock down some clutch shots this season, including a 3-pointer to tie the game versus Arizona in the first game of the season. It wasn’t the prettiest shot, but Nairn was able to get a friendly roll. He averaged 3.5 points 3.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game this season. His biggest contribution to the team came on the defensive end of the court and as a vocal leader. He isn’t going to score 20 points a night, but he is going to play intense defense and make sure other guys aren’t slacking. Nairn is good floor general for the Spartans, but his outside shot has to take a step forward if he wants to start over Cassius Winston next season. Still, Nairn figures to be a key piece to a loaded 2017-18 Spartan roster.
Eron Harris: B-
What a heart breaking season for Harris. After a somewhat disappointing junior season, Harris was expected to be a consistent scoring threat for the Spartans, but he struggled to find a rhythm. You never knew what to expect from him this season. He could drop 30 like he did against Florida Gulf Coast or he could score two like he did against Kentucky. Even though he was inconsistent, Harris was still able to average 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for Harris, his season and Spartan career ended on Feb. 18 in a game against Purdue after suffering a right knee injury in the second half. Although Harris’ college career is done, his game is very intriguing. He is a very talented scorer and he improved defensively in his time at MSU. He will likely go undrafted, but don’t be surprised if he gets picked up after the draft and plays in the summer league.
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