Tom Izzo has significant mission this afternoon, and it doesn’t involve Jabari Parker.
The MSU coach will be in Flint visiting with Herb Cleaves, whom he said had “a serious surgery.”
“He’s been here for me whenever I needed him,” Izzo said of the elder Cleaves. “Whatever time I get back, I get back.”
The target time is 4 p.m. It would put Izzo in front of the TV in time to watch Parker – one of the nation’s top high school seniors and Izzo’s biggest recruit since Mateen Cleaves back in 1996 – announce his college choice on ESPNU.
Izzo can’t talk about specific recruits until they sign their letter of intent, which Parker can’t do until the spring. But the coach alluded to the matter early Thursday afternoon.
“As we all know, there’s a decision to be made,” Izzo said. “But if I’m sitting front of a TV set, sitting at a church or sitting in a van, it’s not gonna make any difference on what decisions are made today.”
Cleaves’ decision was MSU over Michigan, thus shifting the in-state power balance to the Spartans for about 15 years. And there certainly are parallels between the type of program-changers that Cleaves was and Parker is. However, it’s because of Cleaves that wherever Parker goes – his five finalists are MSU, Duke, BYU, Florida or Stanford – it won’t be as damaging if the 6-foot-8 Chicago Simeon forward picks somewhere else.
“You need the best players to get your program to where you want. But the program’s gonna go on now, the base is pretty solid and set. That’s one thing,” Izzo said. “Back then (in 1996), you were getting a recruit to build your program. Now, I think you’re looking to get recruits to extend your program. It’s a little different in that respect.”
Izzo said he doesn’t care if recruits do or don’t call him with their decision before making an official announcement. Parker and his family and close friends have kept his leanings super secret, though most expect it to come down to MSU and Duke. Izzo and assistant Dwayne Stephens were the last coaches to visit with Parker on Wednesday, and they made a favorable impression – at least on his high school coach.
And there is no question that Parker has left an impression with Izzo and all the coaches who’ve seen him play.
“As Jud said to me, Magic was Magic and Cleaves was Cleaves – they were 20 years apart. Draymond the next,” Izzo said. “Usually there are certain players that don’t come along every year, either for what they have the ability to do or how they have the ability to lead.”
Izzo also added that he does plan to get a recruit for the open 2013 scholarship spot. We’ll all find out in less than two hours if that player is Jabari Parker.