Extra practice time isn’t something basketball players usually are fond of.
Allen Iverson notably summed up the sentiment pretty succinctly about a decade ago.
But after frequently only having one day to prepare for opponents in the season’s opening month, the No. 19 MSU men’s basketball team (6-2) is sharing head coach Tom Izzo’s enthusiasm about extra time in the gym.
“We have a lot of time right now; we don’t play till Wednesday, so the main thing we’ve just been doing is working on us, working on our offense,” sophomore guard Branden Dawson said.
“You definitely need to put that extra work in because great things come out of you putting in work, either after a game or you coming in on off days and shooting rather than sitting at home, playing a video game or something.
“The main thing coach tells us (is) when one guy goes to the gym, call or text guys to let them know you’re on the way to the gym. Somebody can come with you and shoot.”
The practice has become contagious as the Spartans try to gain comfort with a new starting lineup and adjusted rotations, which have Dawson playing the power forward and junior center Adreian Payne bringing energy off the bench.
Dawson has said he isn’t fond of playing in the post but is adjusting to the new role and believes there will be more room to attack the basket with Payne and senior center Derrick Nix not on the floor at the same time.
“We’ve got to get (Dawson) playing his position in there because we need to get him more touches. I mean, he’s a load to cover down there — I don’t care if it’s a 6-(foot)-10 guy,” Izzo said.“If he gets it at the high post, I think he can do some things with it. … He’s a guy that doesn’t make many charges because he’s so slithery; he’s so athletic and so strong he can get around people and do different things.”
Although Nix had said he wanted to continue playing with Payne, and probably will during certain stretches, he thinks the new lineup will help both centers be successful because they’ll have more room to work.
“I think that’s one of the positives,” Nix said. “When both of us are down there, it’s more clustered and we’ve got to worry about (double teams) and everybody rallying to the ball, where (Dawson) can play on the wing more, so it kind of opens it up for the other bigs.”
The other benefit has been the spark Payne has provided off the bench, securing his second career double-double in the lineup’s first extensive work together on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Travis Trice said Payne has asked him for advice about what to look for when coming off the bench.
“He’s asked me a lot about (coming off the bench), and I told him it’s a different approach,” Trice said. “Not starting isn’t always a bad thing because now coming in you already know how the game, the flow is going. You see what they like to do and you get a good look at what they’re trying to do, and it makes it easier.”