The Michigan State men’s basketball team is getting closer and closer to kicking off its 2021-2022 season. While the team started practicing in late September, exhibition games begin on Wednesday, Oct. 27 against Ferris State and, eventually, regular season action kicks off on Tuesday, Nov. 9 against Kansas in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
With that said, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke during MSU’s media day earlier this week, and gave plenty of updates on the the development of the team. In terms of practice and development and strength and conditioning of the players, Izzo says the team has had its “best summer in 10 years.”
Izzo calls his team “egoless,” and also said that outside of one practice following the Izzone Campout last weekend, the team has been very focused and practiced at a high level.
“We’ve had a great couple of weeks of practice,” Izzo said. “I thought (we had) one bad practice, last Friday, we let the Izzone Campout people come in and I don’t think we handled that very well. Other than that, I think we’ve been at a very, very high level.”
New role for Mike Garland on Michigan State’s staff
One of the more interesting things that Izzo mentioned is a bit of a shakeup with the staff. Longtime assistant coach Mike Garland — who is entering his 22nd season at Michigan State — is transitioning into a new role as “special assistant” to the head coach, per Izzo.
Garland and Izzo are great friends and were college teammates at Northern Michigan in the 1970s. Since joining Izzo’s staff in 1996, Garland has been with the Spartans every year outside of a four-year period from the 2003-2004 season through the 2006-2007 season — which included a three-year stint as head coach at Cleveland State and one year as an assistant coach at SMU. He was then re-hired at MSU by Izzo for the 2007-2008 campaign.
While Garland’s new role includes film breakdown, strategy and general day-to-day basketball operations, it will now focus on player development and mental health. He will also have some on-campus recruiting coordination responsibilities, but will not be on the road to recruit as often. Garland had to take a bit of a leave of absence during the 2019-2020 season, as his son, Ray, underwent heart surgery. The new role for Garland allows him to get off of the road and hopefully spend more time with his family.
“When I say ‘special assistant,’ (I mean) he’s a special guy to me,” Izzo said about Garland.
With Garland transitioning to this role, that means the three full-time on-court assistants for Izzo this season will now be Dwayne Stephens, Doug Wojcik and Mark Montgomery — who was originally hired to be the recruiting coordinator. Additionally, former players Matt McQuaid (director of basketball operations) and Austin Thornton (video coordinator) are on staff.
Davis Smith earns scholarship:
In other news, Izzo also mentioned that sophomore guard Davis Smith, who walked onto the team for the 2020-2021 season, earned a scholarship. Michigan State still has one open scholarship spot remaining.
Tip-off time update
Michigan State confirmed on Friday that it will host Western Michigan at the Breslin Center on Friday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
CONFIRMED: Our game against Western Michigan will tip at 6:30 PM ET on Friday, November 12th and will be televised on BTN. pic.twitter.com/qTBxQKscXi— Michigan State Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) October 22, 2021
Quotables from Michigan State Spartans:
Freshman shooting guard Max Christie: “I’m really looking forward to my freshman season, I want to make the most out it. I know you only get this season, every season, once, so I’m looking forward to just making the most out of my freshman season, learn as much as possible, and just have fun and win as many games (as possible).”
Senior forward and captain Gabe Brown: “I’m ready to get (the season) started. We had a great summer. We got a lot of team camaraderie — we all hang out with each other, we all do everything with each other. Right now I just can’t wait to go out there and play with (my teammates). Next week is the start, so I just can’t wait.”
Junior forward and captain Malik Hall: “I’m still getting used to being someone that always has to talk and always has to encourage some of the younger guys. (Being a captain) is something that I wanted, but also (the vocal part) is something that I’ve been working on throughout the summer. It definitely is a challenge for me (to be the vocal leader). Naturally, I’m a little bit more quiet and reserved when it comes to those situations. But it’s something that I’ve been able to work on a lot and something that Coach (Izzo) is helping me with a lot.”
Media Availability Videos:
We have videos of the full press conference below, with comments from Izzo, Christie, Brown and Hall: