Trae Jefferson, one of the more entertaining players to watch in the Class of 2015, announced that he had committed to Texas Southern on Tuesday afternoon via his personal Twitter account.
There’s no shortage of YouTube videos of the diminutive 5-foot-7 point guard. There’s this one from BallisLife that was uploaded last August and this one from last month of him torching defenders while wearing sweatpants.
Jefferson was once listed in the Rivals 150 and is still listed as a four-star recruit, according to the same recruiting service. Despite the ranking, he could only land offers from Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Horizon League and Big West programs, according to Rivalsand ESPN, which rated him as a three-star prospect.
It’ll be interesting to track how Jefferson translates to the next level, but he should form an entertaining backcourt alongside rising junior guard Chris Thomas.
Texas Southern is coming off a 22-win season and reaching the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Even with senior forward Branden Dawson out of the lineup with a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist, No. 25 Michigan State appeared to be a safe bet to take care of business in their final two non-conference games before they start Big Ten play December 30. Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were still available, as was Bryn Forbes, and the addition of freshman Javon Bess is a nice boost for the Spartans as well.
So a 1-8 Texas Southern team didn’t appear to pose much of a threat…on paper. In action Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley proved tough to corral, and Jason Carter played well in his second game of the season as Mike Davis’ Tigers won 71-64 in overtime.
Thomas scored a game-high 22 points, Riley (20, seven rebounds) and Carter (13) combined to score 33 of Texas Southern’s 38 bench points on the night and Madarious Gibbs added nine points, nine rebounds and four assists to lead the way for the victors. Texas Southern shot 53.2% from the field, the second-best percentage a Michigan State opponent has shot from the field this season (No. 2 Duke shot 54 percent). Thomas made good use of ball screens for Texas Southern, and the Tigers’ offensive execution helped them make up for Michigan State rebounding nearly 44 percent of its missed shots.
As for Michigan State, doing a good job on the offensive glass doesn’t mean much when you struggle to convert those extra opportunities. Tom Izzo’s Spartans shot 39.3% from the field, with Forbes (six points) and Trice (six points) combining to shoot 4-for-22 from the field, and they were also 4-for-21 from beyond the arc. With Texas Southern as productive as it was offensively Michigan State couldn’t afford that kind of night from the field, especially with Dawson sidelined.
To be fair to Texas Southern their 1-8 record has come as a result of one of the tougher schedules in college basketball. For programs such as theirs non-conference play is seen as an opportunity to add some money to their athletic department’s coffers, with guarantee games being the norm. Prior to Saturday the Tigers had already played games against Indiana, SMU, Baylor, Florida and No. 8 Gonzaga with eight of their nine games being played on the road.
With that being the case Texas Southern wasn’t going to be intimidated, especially with the Spartans playing without Dawson. Michigan State, which entered the game as the nation’s best three-point shooting team, couldn’t find a groove from the perimeter and that combined with Texas Southern’s play on the other end of the floor cost the Spartans dearly.
Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis returned to his former stomping grounds on Monday night as his Tigers faced his old program, Indiana. The return of Davis marked the first time a former head coach faced the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall and one of the big questions surrounding the evening was how Indiana fans would react to the return of their former coach?
The Indiana faithful gave Davis a warm ovation, with many of the fans in attendance standing, even though Davis left the program after six years and a lot of scrutiny. Indiana ended up beating Texas Southern, 83-64, on Monday night as freshman guard Robert Johnson scored 21 points for the Hoosiers to lead four starters in double-figures.
Davis compiled a 115-79 record over six seasons at Indiana, and made the national championship game in 2002, but he had the nearly impossible task of following Bob Knight and his Hall of Fame legacy. Indiana fans also took issue with Davis because in his final three seasons he only made one NCAA Tournament appearance and he lost at least 12 games in each of his six seasons in Bloomington.
At some programs that might cut it, but not at Indiana. One of the final straws might have been when Davis missed on Indiana natives and prized recruits Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., who both went on to Big Ten-rival Ohio State and helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game in 2007.
By that time, Davis had already moved on to UAB, where he spent six additional seasons as a head coach before taking the Texas Southern job that he currently holds before the 2012-13 season.
During his time in Bloomington, Davis and Indiana’s fan base didn’t always seem on the same page, but at least there was a nice moment and some shared memories on Monday night as the former head coach stood standing and waving in appreciation.