Entering the 2013 season, that has been the challenge placed upon redshirt freshman forward Kenny Kaminski.
"He might be the best pure shooter we have, but he must improve defensively" Izzo said. "In fact, like my famous guy Morris Peterson, I tried to give him the same road map this summer to find somebody on campus that he could guard. If he can find him, then he's going to play, because he can shoot the ball."
The challenge hasn't been coming from Izzo alone. It also is coming from Kaminski's father, Kenn, who played college basketball at Baldwin Wallace outside of Cleveland.
"Kenny's got a dad who feels the same way," Izzo said. "He asked me the other day, is he guarding anybody? Did he get a rebound? I said that's good stock."
Kaminski said while he got his offensive skills from his mother, Kim, who also played at Baldwin Wallace, his father has instilled the need to play defense in him.
"He was an undersized post player who worked his butt off on defense and took pride in defense," Kaminski said. "Both coach and my dad know that in order for me to play this year, I have to defend. My dad is always pushing me to work as hard I can on defense. That's coach's big thing.
"If you can defend, you're going to play."
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward said a big part of his summer focus was on getting better on the defensive end.
It helped, he said, to have future pros like Gary Harris to challenge him.
"I'm working everyday against him and it's putting myself above other people because they don't get to work out with the guys I get to work out with," he said. "I'm working out with pros everyday."
Coming back from a second shoulder surgery, Kaminski also has lost 35 pounds and said that has him feeling like he can do a lot more on both ends of the court.
"Losing 35 pounds is a lot. I really did blow up a little bit after my second surgery," he said. "I feel so much better, a lot more athletic. … It's a huge improvement laterally, up and down, jumping.
"I just feel so much better."