A year after coming up short in the National Championship, Michigan State comes into the 2010 campaign looking to fill the voids left by Goran Suton
and Travis Walton. With most of their backcourt still intact, Durrell Summers
returns to East Lansing for a third season positioned to garner some of Walton's vacated minutes and improve upon a solid, albeit inconsistent sophomore year. A highly touted prep player coming out of the Detroit's storied AAU program, The Family, the Spartans will need Summers to step up just as much as he'll need to take advantage of his opportunities to put himself in the draft conversation.
A long and athletic wing with a wiry frame, Summers was MSU's most dynamic big-play threat last season. Though fellow junior guards Kalin Lucas
and Chris Allen made some impressive plays in their own right, Summers has a fearlessness to his game that makes him a threat to take and make big shots, whether they come in the form of aggressive drives in transition or clutch shots from the perimeter down the stretch.
Considering Summers was only the fourth highest per-game scorer on Michigan State's roster, this penchant for the big play is a microcosm of his performance last season. Functioning mostly as a scorer off the bench, Summers proved capable of going off on any given night, posting three number of 20+ point games when his shot was falling, but showed that he can also disappear for stretches as well, posting less than 5 points in eleven games on the year.
These bouts of inconsistency have a lot to do with the way that Summers scores his points. With almost 70% of his total shots coming off of jumpers according to Synergy Sports Technology, Summers relies incredibly heavily on his ability to hit shots from deep. To quantify just how significant this reliance is, we can observe the huge jump in the number of three-pointers he attempted in comparison to overall field goal attempts from his first to second year. As a freshman, 18% of Summers' field goal attempts were from beyond the arc, while that number jumped to a gaudy 44% as a sophomore.
Displaying nice arc on his jump-shot and the ability to hit catch and shoot jumpers on the move, Summers is a solid spot up threat, though his form has its flaws. Despite showing nice footwork out on the perimeter, he's prone to floating a bit to the left on his release and will sometimes change his follow through to help himself get his shot off over defenders. These occasional lapses hurt his consistency at times, but don't detract from the fact that he's a very capable shooter.
In addition to his merits as a shooter from deep, Summers will also knock down some jumpers from inside the arc, though he looks much more comfortable coming off of screens to shoot than he does when he has to take a dribble to create space. This has a lot to do with his lack of ideal ball handling ability. Summers isn't a bad ball handler, but he doesn't show the polish or explosive first step that would help him get to the rim effectively. This inability to create easy looks at the rim isn't a major issue for Summers at this point, since he's very good at getting up the floor and filling the lane in transition and recognizing opportunity to duck in down low in half court sets, but his prospects as an NBA player will have a lot to do with his ability to attack his man of the dribble, get to the line, and diversify his perimeter-heavy offensive arsenal.
Summers's ability to add strength will be key to his improvement offensive, but could help him just as much, if not more, defensively. Long and aggressive with his hands, Summers won't back down from an assignment defensively when he's dialed in. However, opposing coaches do a solid job of taking advantage of his weaknesses. Lacking the physical strength to effectively get through screens or gain position in the post, Summers frequently finds himself chasing his man off the ball and struggling to deal with physical contact. His length allows him to bother shooters, and he's quick and disciplined enough to keep his man out of the lane, but his physical strength hurts him in certain matchups and he doesn't always show great intensity.
Moving into his junior year, the name of the game for Summers will be consistency. His ability to hit the three and play tough defense will dictate his playing time and contribute to MSU's success. However, his ability to become more than a jump-shooter, break out of his shell as a roleplayer, and improve his ability to create for himself and others will play a major role in how he's perceived at season's end. Surrounded by a number of other draft prospects, Summers may not ever get the chance to showcase his skills to the extent that players at small schools would, which means he'll have to prove his worth as a potential NBA player by doing all the other things his team needs in order to win games.