In November, I wrote an article about how Branden Dawson would be the X factor for Michigan State this season. At the time, he had been bragging about his new-look jump shot that would transform his game.
As of now, nothing has really changed for the junior from Gary, Ind.
Dawson has had some impressive games this season scoring-wise, but they have been few and far-between. In MSU’s biggest games of the season, Dawson just does not put in the performance that coach Izzo expects.
In the loss to North Carolina, Dawson posted two points and three rebounds. Against Ohio State, he scored four points and added four boards in a game where Izzo said some of his players played like, “little boys.”
Dawson’s new jump shot was supposed to turn him into something more than a dunk and layup guy, but that is definitely not the case. He still has not attempted a single three-pointer in his collegiate career and is a stonemason from anywhere outside of seven feet. His field goal percentage is extremely high at just over 60 percent, but that is a result of dunks, layups and put-backs. We have not seen Dawson test his new jumper hardly at all this year, and I do not think we will anytime soon.
Dawson has shown flashes of his true potential at times this season. He scored a season-high 20 points to go along with nine rebounds on the road against Penn State. According to ESPN, he only made two shots that were not considered dunks or layups in that game. Luckily for Michigan State fans, Dawson seems to know his limitations and does not try to force the issue with taking jump shots.
The ACL injury does not appear to have any lingering effects on Dawson. He has springs for legs and never fails to impress on a breakaway.
Although he lacks the size of most power forwards and centers, he leads the Spartans in rebounding with 8.6 per game. He simply jumps over the bigger defenders most of the time.
Right now, Dawson might be able to get a tryout with an NBA team, but his pure athleticism will not carry him far in the pros. Until he figures out his jumper, Dawson will always be a one-dimensional player. Teams have already recognized this and frequently sag off of him whenever he has the ball outside of the paint. He simply is not a threat if he is not near the basket.
Coach Izzo has enough outside weapons on his team that he does not need Dawson to expand his game right now. With the emergence of Kenny Kaminski especially, Dawson can be used as a post player, perfect for lobs and tip-ins. He can do the dirty work while Adreian Payne draws the bigger defenders out of the post.
Another year under Izzo could be what he needs to make the progress he hoped for this year. Even though Branden Dawson has not progressed the way many scouts and coaches thought he would, he fits the system at Michigan State very well – when he shows up.
Blake Froling is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports