Izzo, Michigan State in transition, on mission
by Joe Rexrode, USA TODAY Sports
As appetizers go, this one looks pretty meaty for Tom Izzo.
It’s a transitional year in East Lansing for a Michigan State team reminiscing about one departed star and pining for another. Izzo’s pursuit of 6-7 Chicago high school standout Jabari Parker — the consensus top recruit for 2013, a potential No.1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft and a Sports Illustrated cover boy — could stretch into the spring and could prove fruitless.
But Izzo has been recruiting Parker the longest and Michigan State has been perceived as the leader to get a commitment from him, over Duke and others. If the Spartans get Parker, their 2013-14 roster might be Izzo’s best ever and the best in the nation (Kentucky draft results pending).
If they do not get Parker and Michigan State’s underclassmen all stay and develop as hoped, it might be a top-five team. But that’s next season.
This season, there’s a gaping void of leadership and clutch production, things that were provided in 2011-12 by All-American Draymond Green. But there’s enough talent, speed, depth and versatility on hand to pursue Big Ten and Final Four banners (several variables pending).
Speed and depth are the key elements, and Izzo is intent on using them to force pace this season.
He’s so serious about it, he spent time during the offseason studying film of Oregon football practices while visiting Nike headquarters.
“They just speed things up, and I said, ‘Hmmm,’” Izzo says. “I brought back a little bit of the mentality of ‘Let’s go hard in between each play.’”
The best word to describe MSU’ preseason practices would be “frenzied.”
“Like nothing we’ve done before,” junior center Adreian Payne says.
Izzo has emphasized running before, with varying results. The myth about his program is that it prefers the slow, grinding style often seen in the Big Ten.
The truth is, going back to his Mateen Cleaves-led group that won the 2000 national title, Izzo has stressed defense, rebounding and transition offense.
The MSU fast break was so feared then, Big Ten teams got back above all else against the Spartans. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators … [For more on Izzo, Michigan State in transition, but on mission, click here.]