Can new-look Spartans contend?

It seems like only yesterday the pair of Drew's were an afterthought on the MSU roster. Now the two Drews are being counted on to provide the veteran experience for

EAST LANSING - It seems like only yesterday the pair of Drew's were an afterthought on the MSU roster.

Drew Neitzel arrived in East Lansing from Wyoming Park HS as a wide eyed freshman sporting a bald fade and an expanding game. Equally unassuming was the big red headed kid from Muskegon, Drew Naymick, who was trying to learn the ropes and get into the playing group.

They simply hung on for the magical ride as a group of experienced juniors and seniors led the team to the NCAA Final Four.

But now they're all gone; Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Shannon Brown, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and the rest to the far flung corners of the basketball world. Now the two Drews are being counted on to provide the veteran experience for a group of wide eyed freshman.

"Coach Izzo has been on me since I got on campus, even before I got on campus, about being emotional and working on my leadership qualities, and I think I improved a lot on that, said junior point guard Drew Neitzel. This is what you come to Michigan State for, to have the opportunity to play and I'm just looking forward to it."

With the team's top three players leaving for the NBA, the preseason prognosticators have predicted a lower division finish for the Spartans but Neitzel isn't buying into that.

" A lot of people are doubting us, but it really doesn't matter what people think," said the junior guard. "Last year, some people had us ranked pre-season No. 1, and we didn't really end up doing anything. We're kind of at the other end of the spectrum this year, so we'll see what happens."

Naymick suffered an injury early last season and petitioned the NCAA for a medical redshirt season. He received it and is expected to be in the starting lineup for the Spartans at center.

"There is absolutely pressure on me this year. As the tenured guy on the team, the guy that has been here the longest - there is some pressure," admitted Naymick. "Not only from outside sources to succeed, but from myself as well."

The 6-foot-10 center said the way that this year's edition of the Spartans can outshine expectations is to take a page out of the Detroit Pistons book.

"I am just looking forward to 'going to work', because this team is going to have to 'go to work'. We are going to have to play to earn anything we get this year."

Naymick was asked if the lower expectation have lower the pressure on he and Neitzel. "I wouldn't say we have less pressure. Maybe looking in from the outside the expectations are a little lower, but they are always high here at Michigan State."

MSU is looking for contribution from some former role players, juniors Marquise Gray and Goran Suton among those.

"They have both been working hard this summer," said sophomore guard Travis Walton who was named one of the team captains.

"Even though Marquise was a little hurt he was still in the gym, doing hook shots when he could and working on his strength, getting stronger. So I think they're ready for the challenge this year as far as scoring more points and being more physical on the floor "

Suton is embracing the opportunity in front of him to be a key contributor to the Spartans this winter.

"I think I'm still maturing. Coach is helping me with his work and I think I've grown since last year. I think I've grown a lot mentally. Every year you understand the system better and you get more adapted to it. You figure out the things you can do and can't do, and you learn from it. You leave the negatives outside the court, and just focus on what matters."

Joining the four are MSU's super talented recruiting class led by 7-0 center Tom Herzog, 6-foot-8 forward Raymar Morgan of Chicago and 6-foot-7 swingman Isaiah Dahlman of Minnesota.

Dahlman has already figured out the way to get on the floor.

"As soon as I came here, I started working on my defense. There are so many little things at the college level that you can't get away with that maybe you could at the high school level. The game is so much faster, those little things you have to pick up on quick. Every day you are getting something new thrown at you, so you have to pick it up quick."

While this group of Spartans may not have the talent of their predecessors, they are deep and ready to scrap and work hard.

"Going to work" might not be a bad theme for this team, they're not using it in Auburn Hills anymore.


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