Marcus Bingham Jr., a 6-foot-10 forward, played his junior season at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School.
(Daytona Niles | MLive.com)
FT. WAYNE, Ind. -- "All this stuff," Marcus Bingham Jr. said, gesturing toward seven courts of organized chaos; another weekend on the hamster wheel of AAU basketball, "is all really new to me."
Bingham is still processing all this. He's 6-foot-10, all arms and legs. Two summers ago, he was roughly 6-2, didn't play basketball, and was barely hanging on in school.
Last week, he received a full scholarship offer from Tom Izzo to play basketball at Michigan State.
"A blessing," he called it.
Bingham was at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run 'N Slam tournament this weekend. He plays AAU ball for Indy Heat, one of the top teams in the country, and a far cry from the Grand Rapids rec-league. Despite playing alongside Brandon Johns, the best 2018 prospect in Michigan, and Keion Brooks, one of the top 2019 players in the country, Bingham was an attraction at Speice Fieldhouse in Ft. Wayne on Friday and Saturday.
In addition to Michigan State, the 6-foot-10 forward recently picked up scholarship offers from Purdue, VCU, Pittsburgh, Butler, Xavier and others. Bingham is an anomaly, of sorts. Because grassroots basketball is so expansive and all-encompassing, very few high-major players emerge late in their high school careers anymore.
Bingham, meanwhile, didn't play basketball as a freshman. He was another kid at Grand Rapids Central High School, barely getting by.
"I was a bad student -- I can't even lie, I was bad," he says. "I kept getting in trouble and all that."
He transferred to Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School for his sophomore year. More of the same. Bad grades. Behavior issues.
Along the way, though, Bingham shot from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-7. He played basketball for fun in local rec-leagues, but was getting better and better and drawing more and more attention. Friends started telling him that, if he decided to, he could be a legitimate player. He played as a sophomore at Ottawa Hills, putting his obvious, but unrefined potential on display.
With two years of high school play left, Bingham made another move, transferring from Ottawa Hills to Catholic Central.
"I thought, for me to do all this, I had to get away from everybody I was around," he said. "So I went to Catholic and I've got a good relationship with everybody there. That's where I needed to be."
Bingham played well on last year's summer circuit -- a long, raw, athletic forward -- and began seeing college coaches on his sidelines. In the year since, including a solid junior season at Catholic Central, mid-major scholarship offers began popping up.
"I started playing for-real, for-real this past year," he said. "I never took it seriously until then."
This spring, some shackles of inexperience and uncertainty seem to fallen away, giving way to an emerging star. Bingham is naturally reserved and maybe a bit untrusting. Grand Rapids Christian point guard Duane Washington Jr., a friend, said, "You don't really get to know him until he knows you." Johns, his AAU teammate said: "He's definitely quiet, but he has all the game."
The irony in all this is Michigan State. Moreso than any program, Izzo's operation keys on identifying young, in-state talent and getting those players on campus as early and often as possible. Players like Washington and Johns have been to MSU countless times.
Bingham? His first visit was last week.
The trip to East Lansing, Bingham says, came after Izzo and assistant Dwayne Stephens came to see him go through an individual workout. He recalls looking over and seeing the two MSU coaches with a sense of disbelief.
He'd come a long way.
"I thought, man, all this work is going to pay off," Bingham said.
Heading into the remainder of the summer circuit and his senior year at Catholic Central, Bingham is entering the best-prospect-in-the-state debate, thanks mostly to his enormous upside. His length makes him a defensive weapon both at the rim and on the perimeter. His offensive game is developing. He's far from a finished product, but the multi-tool skillset is unquestionable.
Bingham says he plans on visiting MSU again and also wants to visit Washington, Missouri and more. He said nothing is scheduled and he's in the midst of narrowing his list of schools.
That could be difficult. Only more suitors are going to emerge. As Bingham's profile rises, so too will his possibilities.
Given where he was, which was nowhere, everything that lies ahead is fittingly unknown.
"I've think I've been working hard enough to get all this," Bingham said. "I'm just happy to have the opportunity."