Before Michigan State opened the season, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had high praise for Bryn Forbes’ offensive ability. He also was quick to note areas of improvement that were needed for the Cleveland State transfer.
Most notably were ball handling and defense.
It was a group effort and it has taken some time, but the defensive game has been coming around for the junior guard lately and he had a strong showing against Virginia last weekend.
”I don’t think he took a step, I don’t think he took a leap,” Izzo said. “I think he rocket shipped off the ground.”
It has been a focus for a while for Forbes, who said it was a gradual improvement with occasional flashes. He highlighted the Spartans’ 70-50 win against Indiana as a highlight, but that was trumped in beating a physical Virginia team.
But as he worked to get better, it was a frustrating process.
“Knowing what I am capable of doing and not living up to that can be hard sometimes, but I kept working,” he said. “It wasn’t a working thing. I don’t think I wasn’t working hard enough. I just wasn’t understanding, but then it gradually became easier and easier.
”I’m going to keep working. I’ve gotten much better than I was.”
Forbes was hard at work on the craft in practice, but it took more than just that time to improve. A lot of the work outside of practice made the difference.
“Lots of film,” he said. “(Work) with the GAs, the coaches, just a little bit extra of everything. A little bit in the weight room. Things like that. Everything plays a part in it.”
He credited having the right people around him, including the Valentines – graduate assistant Drew and former high school teammate Denzel.
Denzel Valentine said the ability to play defense was never the issue for Forbes, it was just catching on to a new system and playing in the Big Ten. So Valentine got on his case from day one
”With Bryn, he always is willing to get better and he doesn’t get mad if you criticize him,” Valentine said. “He wants to get better and know what he messed up. He likes watching film. He is not the type of guy that has bad body language when you tell him something.
”With being so positive, you’re going to get better and he has gotten better.”
Izzo gave Forbes a lot of credit to the work, adding he has seen the work he has put in and that it is tough to get better defensively.
”Boy, mentality wise, I think if you looked at him now compared to the beginning of the year,” Izzo said, “he might have made as big an improvement in that one area – and a lot of it has been in the past couple weeks.
The goal moving forward will be to continue that upward trend, while also finding more consistency on a game-to-game basis. Izzo said there will be work for him to do in the offseason, including time in the weight room.
But the strides made have been big already and hearing the praise from Izzo after his performance against Virginia stuck.
”It’s good hearing that,” Forbes said. “It’s good for the confidence and just makes you wanna go out and do it again.”
So All-Big Ten defensive team next year?
“Hopefully, I am going to keep working,” he said. “I hope so.”