With a lot of fresh faces, Michigan State got its preseason basketball camp underway Friday.
The likes of seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are gone, Gary Harris left early for the NBA, Kenny Kaminski was dismissed from the program, Russell Byrd transferred and Alex Gauna left the program. What is left is a core that coach Tom Izzo feels had a good summer and chemistry that rivals his team last season, but with improved leadership.
”We just got guys leading them here at 6:30 morning, leading them here at night,” Izzo said. “That’s been better.”
That leadership stems at the start with seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, as well as junior Denzel Valentine. It also is a trio that Izzo said leads him to believe this team could be better than some expect, as all three took strides this offseason.
”Trice and Dawson have gotten remarkably better and Trice has gotten maybe better than any of them,” Izzo said. “I just think he’s healthier. …
”It just seems he’s had a great spring, a great summer and a great fall.”
Trice has bulked up 30 pounds, Izzo said, since his weight was low due to injury. He praised the senior point guard for how he is running the team and shooting the ball, but also for his leadership abilities.
”He’s got a lot of confidence, he really understands what’s going on,” izzo said. “ He’s taking his role as a captain as a big thing, which I’ve been looking for. I think it’s very important to him. He’s played really well. …
”I like the fact that, he is a guy who has been through it all. He’s had the injuries but he’s also had some great nights. I think he has the best perspective maybe of anybody on my team.”
Behind that core group, Izzo said the Spartans have a lot of pieces and while he looks to figure out how they fit together, one had a very impressive past month.
”The guy that’s improved the most since school started has been Alvin Ellis,” Izzo said. “He’s taken a big jump and he had some games last year where he was pretty good.
”With Bryn Forbes, he shoots it as well as anybody we had last year. He’s gotta work on the other parts of his game now. We’ve got some pieces in there and if we can put those pieces together I think we got a chance to be good.”
Some of the pieces that could factor into the mix are incoming freshmen Javon Bess and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn.
”Him and Tum here too much – I mean, we brought them in two weeks ago and told them to chill because they were here too much,” Izzo said.
Izzo compared the 6-foot-5 Bess to former Michigan State power forward Raymar Morgan given his feel for the game, as well as his love for the game of basketball.
”I think he’s my surprise recruit, meaning I think he’s stepped up a lot,” Izzo said. “He’s got size, he can shoot it better than decent. He can handle it, offensive rebounds, can guard people and he has a very high basketball IQ.”
As for Nairn, the speedy point guard, Izzo said he might be the fastest player he has coaches.
”He’s got a ways to go but he’s been every bit as much fun to be around and his energy level and all those things, it’s been great,” Izzo said.
Regarding forward Marvin Clark, the final incoming freshman, Izzo said he can shoot and looks good physically, while indicating he might have farther to go than his classmates.
”It’s picking up the game, that’s gonna be, and the defense,” he said.