14-15 – Seniors BJ Dawson and Travis Trice were a huge part of MSU’s success this season, with both managing to help carve out their own spot in MSU’s storied program history as driving forces behind a Final Four run. Dawson was the guy who began his career with all the expectations. He was a McDonald’s All American out of Gary and made an instant impact as a starter on MSU’s Big Ten championship team in 11-12. If you’d suggested then that he would be a four year player, it probably would have been scoffed at, as BJ needed a lot of refinement in his ball skills but had superior athleticism and strength. Yet, a combination of injuries and inability to really develop his shot resulted in his playing four years in East Lansing. In the end, he did some special things here. He leaves as one of the premier rebounders in Spartan history, averaging 7.27 rpg for his career with his total of 902 rebounds ranking 7th on the all time Spartan list. He developed into a premier defender, becoming a shotblocking presence as well as a guy who could square up and check guards. Offensively, BJ could be inconsistent but he gave MSU a presence at the rim and a lethal finisher in transition.
Trice was the surprising guy. He showed promise early in that 11-12 season as a reserve, averaging 4.5 ppg on 40% shooting from deep. He seemed set to develop into, at the very least, an impact reserve guard. However, injuries and illness prevented Travis from doing the kind of work on his body and his game during the next two years, both in the summer and during the season, and thus his development didn’t come as quickly as it might otherwise have. Toward the end of his junior year, when Appling was hurt and/or limited, we began to see Trice make strides as he played the most consistently good basketball of his career. However, as a senior he was going to have to emerge as much more than a simple role player and he did that in spades. Trice had some occasional moments of inconsistency during the season but for the most part gave MSU a big time jumpshooter, an improved player inside the arc and on defense, and a playmaking compliment to Valentine (Trice actually led the Spartans in assists and had one of the best assist to TO ratios in the nation). Yet, he took that level of play up another couple of notches late in the season, particularly during the NCAA TOurnament. He averaged 19 ppg during the Spartans’ five game run and won an MOP of the East Regional. No one would have ever seen this coming when he committed to MSU seemingly out of the blue in the summer of 2010, known best for being Dawson’s AAU running buddy.
Both guys have futures playing for pay, but it remains to be seen at what level. I suspect that their Tournament run at least will mean scouts take another look leading into the Draft but it’s far from a lock that either or both actually get picked (yet it could happen). Even if they get drafted, making an NBA roster right away is likely to be an uphill battle but both have elements in their games which give them a chance. In BJ’s case, he would seem to have potential as a defensive specialist and Lord knows he can rebound well enough to perhaps fit in on someone’s roster as an undersized post, something becoming more prevalent at all levels of the game. In Travis’ case, he can run an offense and make shots, even from NBA range. If you can shoot, you always have a chance. My gut tells me both likely end up having to work their way into the League along the lines of former Spartans like Charlie Bell and Alan Anderson, but anything is possible. After all, who was betting on either guy being in Indianapolis on the last weekend of the season as anything but a spectator?