Now that the basketball regular season is over, our collective conversation is focused on the All-Conference selections, debate on whether we should try to win the BTT or lay down so we can take a rest, and of course, how far we go in the big dance. But since we don't play until Friday, I wanted to briefly discuss a few guys who make all this possible, but will never see more than a fleeting second of attention for it.
If you've ever been in on a gamethread here at TOC during an MSU blowout, in the last couple of minutes you'll see references to the "Iron Mountain team" coming into the game. This refers to the guys at the end of the bench who normally won't see the floor unless we're up by at least 15 (that seems to be the rule I've observed) and there's only a minute or so left. These guys play a thankless but vital role in creating what you see from the starters, serving as the scout team and practice opponents for the starters and more-utilized bench players. I believe (someone correct me if I'm wrong) they also generally aren't on scholarship; in fact, it's pretty rare for one of these guys to be enough of a playing factor to even be known by any but the most dedicated fans (you may remember Mike Kebler from a few years ago playing some serviceable minutes; that is the exception, not the rule). Ergo, they get to pay tuition for the privilege of being dunked on by Brandon Dawson in practice and doing the War Drill with Payne, Nix and Costello.
The Iron Mountain label hearkens to Coach Izzo's hometown in the Upper Peninsula, and is Izzo's description for these guys because of their constant, largely unappreciated hard work. To be fair, when it's possible, they do get the same Senior Day treatment as everybody else on the team, but as I said, that may often be the first time many fans even know their names (if you recall the tail end of the glorious Michigan blowout, three guys played without names on their jerseys).
As you'll see, the Iron Mountain team also has a strong Michigan flavor to it. There's usually at least one guy from out of state as well, but as far back as I can remember, Izzo has always preferred to fill this group with Michigan kids, often including a local from East Lansing or Okemos, to maintain strong ties to the community.
I don't want to leave it up to chance (a blowout win on Senior Day) that these guys ever get any credit for their dedication, so I reviewed the box scores on msuspartans.com and consulted their bios on ESPN to present this player info.
Dan Chapman, Junior, #40, Okemos, MI
10 minutes played, 1 reb
Keenen Wetzel, Sophomore, #15, Monroe, MI
7 minutes played, 2 rebs, 1 block
Bella Sibedwo, Sophomore, #44, Upper Marlboro, MD
2 mins played, 1 assist
Trevor Bohnhoff, Freshman, #13, Saginaw, MI
2 mins played, 1 point, 1 steal
Emmet Dacey, Sophomore, #1, Franklin, MI
2 minutes played
Here's the kicker, and possibly the most admirable part of the whole thing: Iron Mountain guys, despite enthusiastic urging from the Breslin crowd, very rarely shoot the ball, and thus, don't score much even when accounting for their very limited minutes. Since they only play at the end of blowouts, Izzo is usually attempting to just run out the clock, out of respect for the opponent. I'm not sure if these guys would play if we were on the losing end of a blowout because that just doesn't happen much, and I suppress the memories when it does. I doubt there's a blanket ban on attempting to score, but the Iron Mountain guys generally just run the shot clock down as much as possible. To refrain from trying to score, usually on the opponent's end-of-the-bench guys, in a rare opportunity to get in the game, especially with the students urging you to shoot, is an impressive display of sportsmanship.
These guys aren't going down in Spartan history with Magic, Mateen and Draymond. In a couple years, there won't be many people who remember they were ever on the team. But their role, while less visible, is still very important. Cheers, then, to the Iron Mountain team.