On Wednesday morning during the 2022 Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball Media Days in Minneapolis, both Michigan State men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo and women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant took the podium to speak about their teams.
On the mic pic.twitter.com/FclgdEDY9c— Michigan State Men's Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) October 12, 2022
As for Izzo, he began his press conference by saying the men’s team has a smaller roster and was free of injury until sophomore guard Jaden Akins hurt his foot. Senior forward Malik Hall also dealt with a minor injury earlier, but is healthy now.
“I think our biggest improvement, we needed to get better guard-play,” Izzo said as far as what the Spartans need to do better compared to last season. “We felt like last year we just did not handle the ball, take care of the ball and push the ball like we’d like to. There will be times this year where we’ll have two and even three point guards in the lineup. Maybe the weakness would be that we’re going to be very young and inexperienced at center. Every other position I think we’re going to be much more experienced.”
Izzo also spoke on defense before fielding questions.
“Hopefully our defense improves a little bit,” he said. “I’m a little worried about our rebounding, yet I’m excited for what will be the greatest non-conference schedule in Michigan State history, and probably one of the greater ones that anybody’s played if you ask me.”
Izzo put any rumors of retiring to rest, saying, “When it’s time that I don’t enjoy it, when it’s time I can’t take a redeye from Vegas to Orlando, it will be time to get out.
“That is not where I’m at right now in any way, shape or form,” he continued. “In fact, going through what we went through at Michigan State, some issues a couple years ago, the COVID, I’m looking at it just the opposite. I’ve got some things I’d like to accomplish as a coach, for Michigan State, our league.”
Those goals, for Izzo, include winning another Big Ten championship, and of course, chasing another national championship.
Junior guard A.J. Hoggard will be the leader on this season’s team. Izzo says Hoggard is akin to the quarterback of this basketball squad.
“A leader is a guy that has the ability to make other players around him better than they actually are,” Izzo said. “It’s not just leading by ‘I do this.’ That thing about ‘leading by example,’ I hate that phrase. That’s such a cop-out phrase. It means you’re only taking care of yourself.
“I’m looking for guys that want to bring other people with them. That is still a work-in-progress for us right now. We took serious strides this summer. That’s why I’ve got all five of my guys here. I thought all five of those guys made some strides. (Akins) has become a better leader. Unfortunately, out now for six weeks. I do see that still being a work-in-progress but making big progress on it.”
It appears Izzo was perhaps counting the total time Akins will be out since his surgery with the “six weeks” timeframe, as Akins told reporters at the Big Ten Media Days event that he is close to returning to practice and should be available for the regular season opener versus Northern Arizona on Nov. 7.
Jaden Akins said he’s close to returning to the practice court and expects to be ready for the opener— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) October 12, 2022
Michigan State’s men’s basketball team is coming off of a season in which it finished just outside of the AP top-25 poll and saw an exit in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.