Even in the clouds of defeat, the MSU basketball team has found its silver lining.
In their first game back from injuries, Harris scored 12 points and picked up eight rebounds, while Trice scored nine in reserve roles in a losing effort against the Hurricanes in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The star freshman, Harris, missed the team’s last two games after spraining his shoulder early in the game against Boise State — an injury that was supposed to keep him out for two-three weeks. Trice hasn’t played since the team’s opener, where he suffered a concussion and a broken nose in a loss to Connecticut.
With other lineup concerns afoot, including the appropriate rotation of senior center Derrick Nix and junior center Adreian Payne, head coach Tom Izzo realized the limitations of the players in their returns, seeing areas of improvement necessary for both.
“Hopefully we’ve got Harris and Trice back, although Trice really struggled with his conditioning, but that’s bound to be with almost three weeks out,” Izzo said after the game. “We’re going to change our lineup up a little bit. We’re just struggling with the two bigs in there.”
Earlier in the week, Izzo alluded to the notion that his guards might play against Miami, citing the performance of the players in practice and the progress in their respective recoveries.
Trice passed a concussion test for the first time Monday and was cleared for practice. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native will be required to wear a protective mask similar to that of the NBA’s Richard Hamilton in order to guard his nose from any further injuries.
Still, a prominent concern for Trice was the recovery from the concussion, which often can be an unpredictable process that varies by the individual.
“It’s hard to explain because it just feels like you’re in a fog,” Trice said on Monday. “Even coming out and listening to the band, there’s a lot of times where I didn’t want to come out for warmups because the band was playing the music and the lights. It’s gotten a lot better. … After the Boise State game, I didn’t have a headache and I was like ‘OK, we can start moving forward.’”
Expecting to miss his diaper dandy for up to a month, the recovery breathes new life into Izzo’s lineup, particularly for junior guard Keith Appling, who has logged heavy minutes since Harris got hurt on Nov. 20.
In an effort to get back to 100 percent, Harris has been working with the team’s athletic training staff to rebuild the strength in his shoulder and return as a dominating force on MSU’s roster.
“To me, he’s made great progress,” Izzo said on Monday. “Everything he’s doing is the strength in his arm. He has this big pole that kind of wobbles to strengthen your arm, probably going to start with some weights. Everything is involving strength right now.
“He’s a football player; he’s a tough kid. First thing his dad said is, ‘He’ll be back in no time.’ He’s always been a quick healer, but we’re not going take a chance on a guy who was playing probably as good as anybody we have on both ends of the court, so you gotta be careful too.”
Harris said on Monday he was anxious to get back on the court and take some of the pressure off Appling. Although Izzo said the freshman “struggled” shooting against the Hurricanes, the return of Harris certainly is a welcome sign for multiple parties, including Harris.
“I was like, ‘Dang, I don’t want to be out that long,’” Harris said. “I was kind of disappointed but there’s no point in it at this point. I’ve got to have a good attitude about it and get back on the court.”