Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Column: Enoch Boakye's commitment is a sign of more to come

August 4, 2020
<p>The Breslin Student Events Center photographed on Aug. 23, 2019. </p>

The Breslin Student Events Center photographed on Aug. 23, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

If this were Game of Thrones, Enoch Boakye would be the King of the North.

In basketball terms, the 6-foot-10 five-star center is the No. 1 player in Canada and No. 3 center in the United States and Canada. He’s heading to Michigan State.

Boakye adds to head basketball coach Tom Izzo’s summer of top recruits — Pierre Brooks II, Max Christie and Emoni Bates — but says he didn’t come because of them. For Boayke, it was all about the right fit, and while that means good things for the immediate future of the Spartans, it can also be a sign of what’s to come.

Big man, right place

In recent memory, Michigan State has been strong down low. From Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman to Kenny Goins and Jaren Jackson Jr., the most successful big men have had one thing in common: The ability to stretch the floor. 

Boakye fits right in.

A glimpse into his gameplay will quickly show that he is a high motor rim raider with pure athleticism not easily matched at the five spot. His strong ball handling skills allow him to move the ball coast to coast with ease, and he always finishes with power.

This past season at George Harris Prep in Ontario, Canada, Boakye averaged 13 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks a game.

His size and athleticism are the reasons he sits so high in 247sports rankings as the No. 1 player in Canada and the No. 3 center overall. 

Boakye is listed as a five-star by 247sports and a four-star by 247sports composite rankings and Rivals.com. Analysts can see the NBA upside to the big man who runs at a high motor-pace with tremendous size.

"(Boakye has an) impressive frame with wide shoulders and long arms to go with pretty good hands for a young post," 247sports National Recruiting Analyst Josh Gershon said in his analysis. "(He) has legitimate body control and ball skills for the position; can grab rebound and start break. Plus athlete and force around the basket due to sheer size and motor. Could improve his post moves and touch. Has upside as rim protector. Floor is college starter but has easy NBA upside.”

The center's upsides inspired Izzo to make his first trip to Canada in the past 20 years, according to Boakye.

With his size, ball-handling skills and talent around the rim, Boakye will come into East Lansing more polished than most of Izzo’s big men. With the potential to enter in the class of 2021 with Brooks II, Christie and possibly Bates, Spartan fans, it’s time to start dreaming.

New territory for Izzo

Boakye’s commitment means more than Izzo just grabbing his third five-star of the summer. While his recruiting run for the 2021-22 classes are important enough to stand alone in the Spartans' history down the road, it may be a sign of something far more exciting.

East Lansing feels like home to players.

While you could ask many of the Spartan alumni both at the front end of Izzo’s 20-year run and as recently as this past year, they could tell you that. It’s probably why so many players come back once they graduate. 

On my first day covering Spartan basketball, I was working on a cover-story piece on the return of Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. as a graduate manager. I walked into the Breslin's auxiliary gym to see Chicago Bull Denzel Valentine getting shots up on one side of the court, while current players played alongside Charlotte Hornet Miles Bridges and Memphis Grizzly Jaren Jackson Jr.

I was told this is just a normal day in the offseason, nearing both the NBA and NCAA seasons. The same season Draymond Green returned to have his name sent into the rafters.

The atmosphere that has been created in East Lansing is one that players gravitate toward, before and after their time in East Lansing. But, for most of Izzo’s career, he has been snubbed by recruits who have chosen blue bloods like Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina, or other top-tier programs like Louisville and Purdue.

While Izzo has had no shortage of amazing recruits, he has notably done more with less than some of his counterparts have. As things have unfolded, we have learned that it maybe wasn’t the recruiting that was the issue, but that is a discussion for another day. 

With Bates, Christie and Boakye all committing in just a handful of days, Izzo’s recruiting trail has shown a refreshing change of pace. Arguably, not even the bluest of bloods have had a run this impressive.

Correlation does not imply causation, but this class can be pegged as the fruition of hard work and commitment on the recruiting trail.

Michigan State was Emoni Bates' only offer. While it could be easy to assume if he’s able to, he will go straight to the league, that didn’t deter Izzo from attending his games and nurturing that relationship, and it paid off. Bates felt the love from Michigan State and showed it back.

The same can be said for Christie. He said he felt MSU felt like home, as a place he can improve both on and off the court.

Now one commit and an entire country later, the Spartans have Canada’s top prospect and the No. 3 ranked center in his class. Why? Because Michigan State felt right.

While those who have attended and those who didn’t can only dream of it now, the culture created in the Breslin is unmatched. The string of recruits that have come to this realization beforehand has just jumped.

The tsunami started by Brooks II in April that has been followed by three five-star recruits, the most recent of which was Boakye, could be a sign of much more than just a generational class.

Writer’s Note: In my last writer’s note, I said that the column on Emoni Bates would be the last in the series looking at Michigan State and Izzo’s red-hot recruiting run this summer, gaining commitments from Michigan’s No. 1 player in the class of 2021 Brooks II, the No. 13 shooting guard in the country Christie and of course, Bates.

I guess I should’ve known Izzo wasn’t done. We’re going to leave this column open-ended. By now, we should all expect another.



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