Izzo Sizes Up Team As Season Opener Looms

Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo participated in a press conference to celebrate the start of the collegiate basketball season. The coach touched on a number of issues, including the health of his team, replacing the lost senior leadership of Travis Walton, Goran Suton and Idong Ibok and the pressure of leading the national runners-up back for another season of great expections.

Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo participated in a press conference to celebrate the start of the collegiate basketball season. The coach touched on a number of issues, including the health of his team, replacing the lost senior leadership of Travis Walton, Goran Suton and Idong Ibok and the pressure of leading the national runners-up back for another season of great expections.

On being excited for a new season...... " Well, I think I'm really excited about that. I've struggled to figure out where we are yet. We have a rash of injuries. But I'm excited about the fact that I think we have a very good talent base with some guys that have been there and done that.

Like I heard Mack Brown say a couple weeks ago about his football team at Texas, the one factor, you know where your talent level is, you know how good you are defensively, you know what your weaknesses are, but the one factor you never know about a team is the one that, because of all the injuries, has really hampered our maybe improvement, and that's the leadership, the chemistry, the ability to handle distractions that go with high rankings. I think that's the biggest concern that I have for Michigan State and our program.

On filling the leadership void and Draymond Green stepping up to do so...... "I think that one player is the one you mentioned. Any freshman that comes up and says that, I know you kind of want it to be Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, but Kalin has a lot more on the plate. The one thing Travis Walton had, he wasn't a great shooter, offensive player, athlete, he was just a defender and a leader. Sometimes with Kalin I got to make him defend, lead, pass, shoot, score. That makes it harder.

I think in Raymar's case, his personality doesn't always lead to that. So Draymond Green has been a big key. I think there's no question, I think leadership is a big, big, big part of things to get people to hear that great song on CBS, One Shining Moment.

On the chances that Chris Allen, Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe could get on the floor together for significant playing time early....

"Allen and I think Roe are going to play. Morgan, I think is out for I don't know how long. He has had a bad ankle sprain. He's been in rehab morning, noon and night here. He's making some improvement. But definitely not at the pace I'd like it to be made at.

I think there's no question that he's trying to get it done. He's tough enough, he'll play hurt. But right now his ankle has responded a lot but not to the level it needs. He definitely won't play Friday against Florida Gulf Coast. He's a big question mark right now on the game against Gonzaga."

On what it takes to be a leader at Michigan State.....

"Well, to me a leader is somebody who definitely I wouldn't say drags other people but convinces other people to jump on the wagon. There's a lot of people that talk about leadership by example. I absolutely despise those kind of people. I just think it's a copout. I think it's part of our society, leading by example means you're taking care of yourself. I've never been a fan of that. That's a phrase that gets used often that I really struggle with.

I think, you know, the real leaders, if I look at the best years we've had, the best years Michigan State has had, you know, you got one of those guys that just happens to drag other people with them, a Pied Piper type guy. Doesn't always have to be your best player.

I would honestly say Travis Walton was our ninth best player talent-wise, but he had that insatiable desire. Instead of doing things himself, you have the meetings you have the night before the hotel, what happens on the airplane, what happens when you have the tough losses, he's the guy in the middle of it.

A coach becomes like a parent. You can do it by coaching, but I think the process is so much longer. I think the difference in good and great or great and elite is whether you have guys that do lead. You know what, you also have to have good followers. Everybody talks about, I don't want to be a follower. If you're a good follower, there's nothing wrong with that. Everybody's personality is a little different.

But I think a team has to have, and I think we have guys capable. I'm just concerned that at least so far, and I say we've had 17 practices, not one with any of our -- with all of our top seven guys, and I think seven our eight of them with four guys missing. We've had just a slew of injuries. So it's kind of unfair. I'm not throwing our own guys under the bus, I just don't know.

Like I said, Mack Brown, when he said it, he said it takes four or five weeks in a football season. That's why the pre-season rankings mean so little. I'd say there's a lot of truth to that. I think the first month you learn about your chemistry and leadership."

On if there was any carry over from the love MSU was shown in Detroit at the Final Four....

"After the whooping we took, I said if I was a true fan, you know, they talked about our cause, Detroit, the state of Michigan, the Midwest, all that, and there was truth to that to a certain extent, especially when it's your home state, as it will be for Purdue this year. There's always a little bit more of a cause when you're in your home state. If I was just a purist basketball guy, you have to appreciate what the guys at North Carolina did. I mean, that was a cause, too. Guys stayed in school. Because of that, wanting to win a championship kind of overtook personal goals and objectives.

That's what I've tried to say to my team since then. A lot of teams are good enough to win it. I say there's 15 every year that are good enough. It's who handles those things.

I thought our guys handled Detroit as well as you can handle it. We just got beat by a better team that was better to start with and on that night we didn't play as well and they played great. They made shots and we didn't.

Since that time, I've gotten to reflect back and watch a lot of video of all the falderal of the Final Four. Maybe it's a once in a lifetime happening when 70 some thousand people go to a game in your home state. The chances of that happening again are probably slim to none. I've tried to enjoy it a little bit. Seems like when you win, the summer goes quick. When you lose, it seems to go slow and you agonize over it. It's come quick. We're on to next year. It's definitely a happening that will be a memory maker for a lifetime.

On playing one of the nation's toughest schedules year-in and year-out....

"What scares me the most, I think our league is going to be the best it's been in 10 years. You couple that with the fact we have a tough non-conference schedule, especially with more road games as ever, at New York, at North Carolina, at Texas, which I think are two of the best teams in the country. We've done this my entire career here.

My first year we played Carolina, at Louisville, at Oklahoma, Arkansas when they were really good, even Santa Clara with Steve Nash. The only thing I haven't changed is the philosophy on that. There's times I've wanted to. It's just paid dividends for me at Michigan State. I don't begrudge those who don't, and sometimes I say those that do are insane. But it's worked for me.

I don't think it necessarily makes you tournament ready. What you do in November doesn't necessarily help you in March. But I think it gets you to a point where you know your deficiencies along with your officiencies (sic) of your team. It gives you a chance to build on those.

Sometimes, like that one year I think we lost seven games in the non-conference, but we were 12-4 in the league, still made it to the tournament. So my philosophy is nobody's cocky around here 'cause when you are they get knocked down pretty quick by a 20-point loss to Duke or a 35-point loss to Carolina last year or some of the other games we played over the years against Kentucky or Kansas or Arizona, whoever. It's been good."


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