The Michigan State basketball team will look decidedly different this season. Everyone already knew that, but it was reiterated in several different ways at Media Day on Tuesday. There were plenty of interesting quotes from a variety of sources, so let's just get right to it.
Izzo says Payne can hit threes now and has "as good a left hand as anyone I've coached other than Neitzel."— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 9, 2012
Payne also offered up this tidbit that Branden Dawson might not be so happy about him leaking:
Adreian Payne said Russell Byrd recently dunked on Branden Dawson in pickup ball. Another wow.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 9, 2012
Speaking of Russell Byrd, he was somewhat surprisingly voted team captain, along with Derrick Nix. Rexrode tweeted a 'wow' along with the Byrd announcement because he, like most outsiders, would've never guessed Byrd is that well-respected in the locker room as only a sophomore who barely played last season. As KJ noted on Twitter, the group of sophomore captains in the Izzo era is a small one.
Nix, because of his offseason off-court legal issues, was certainly not a lock to be captain, but Rexrode reported he was essentially a lock once the players were allowed to vote on it. Ryan Slocum of ABC 12 has a quote from Tom Izzo making it sound like the vote for Nix was likely unanimous.
Izzo seems to think Nix did enough of a penance:
Nix won't serve suspension. "When I say that kid went through hell in the offseason ... I made his life as miserable as you could make it."— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 9, 2012
As for Dawson, other than getting dunked on by Byrd, all other news is positive for him. Tom Izzo said he's one of four players who are a lock to start:
Izzo on starting lineup if season started today: Appling, Dawson, Payne, Nix and then ... Harris? Byrd? Denzel? Other wing is up for grabs.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 9, 2012
As for the big men, it sounds like freshman Matt Costello has already passed Alex Gauna:
Izzo said Costello shoots it better and blocks shots better than he thought he would. Still wants more love of the game from Gauna.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 9, 2012
I never like to hear the 'doesn't love the game enough' comment from coaches. Not a good sign. As for Costello, after watching the nasty way he played in high school, combined with his skillset, I'm not surprised. And anyone who watched the Moneyball Pro-Am this summer likely saw that Costello is better than advertised athletically.
A few other notes from Rexrode: of the freshmen, Izzo seems most impressed with Denzel Valentine and Tim Bograkos recently commented on how 'old-time' practices are back.
Izzo on Trice: Bacteria infection set him back 6-7 weeks, bounced back & gained all 20 lbs back that he lost during sickness.—Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 9, 2012
Although Izzo spoke on Nix's off-court issue this summer, he also spoke, via Solari, about the incredible progress Nix has made athletically since his freshman season:
Izzo on Nix: "I'd close my eyes when he'd run down the court. Now, he runs like an athlete."—Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 9, 2012
LOL at Nix's attempt to be a vegetarian, via MLive's Diamond Leung:
Derrick Nix lasted as a vegetarian for 3-4 weeks. He tried at one point ordering 3 almond salads at Wendy's, but that wasn't cutting it.— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) October 9, 2012
Nix finally gave in with a grilled chicken sandwich at Wendy's and promptly threw up. Still won't eat beef and said he's now a flexitarian.— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) October 9, 2012
With Nix and Prince Fielder, Michigan might be home to the two largest kinda vegetarians in history.
Izzo says Keith Appling should Aaron Craft a run for his money for B1G Defensive POY.— Rico Beard (@RicoBeard) October 9, 2012
Via Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal, Izzo said there is a method to his recruiting madness — he's going after as much elite national talent as possible right now for a reason:
Izzo: It's safe to say there are some goals I want to accomplish...We're going after as much as we can go after over the next 5-6 years.— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) October 9, 2012
Izzo: This very good program, when it reaches elite status, that's when I'll hang up my whistle.— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) October 9, 2012
The implication of that first comment, via Larry Lage of the Associated Press, is that Michigan State is still very much after Jabari Parker. I think if this is 'very good,' I'll settle for just being 'very good' and not 'elite' if it means Izzo coaches longer.
Via Slocum, Dawson's recovery has everyone mystified (in a good way):
Izzo "...Dawson no issues at all with knee. not sore. Hes bionic "— Ryan Slocum (@Sloc12) October 9, 2012
Evan Beach of WNEM noted on Facebook that Dawson seems to be all the way back athletically:
"Branden Dawson says with the exception of his conditioning he's fully recovered from his acl tear, so much so that he put down an "easy" between the legs dunk in practice."
In Rexrode's Free Press story, Trice also commented on Dawson's quick healing knee:
"They're gonna need to test his body when he's dead and gone," Trice said. "Medical science, he needs to donate his body to science because that dude is a freak of nature."
In Josh Slagter's coverage for MLive, Izzo noted that playing in last year's environment was important for the returning players, but the instability of the previous season was also big:
"Leadership will be a No. 1 question mark." Says it still will be committee and there's an advantage to going through the past two seasons. One didn't have great leadership, last year did. "They've seen what a difference it can make."
And hey, we started this off with a crazy Izzo comparison, let's end it with another, via Jesse O'Brien of The State News:
Izzo says Valentine's teammates love playing with him because he's always passing. "Talking to Jud, (Magic) had that problem when he came."— Jesse O'Brien (@jesseobrien) October 9, 2012