While the term might be accurate, don’t expect a positive reaction out of MSU basketball head coach Tom Izzo when the phrase “players-only meeting” is used.
“Players-only meetings are the biggest joke in athletics - they really are,” Izzo said during Monday’s press conference. “We’re all in this as a family ... when you say ‘players-only’ that means they’re kicking out people.”
Regardless of what it’s called, the players did meet without coaches, but former Spartan and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Travis Walton was in attendance. After a lackluster performance in a 53-46 home loss to Illinois, the players-only gathering seemed necessary to get every player on the same page now that the whole team is healthy.
So, what did the Spartans talk about that will get them back on track?
“Players just weren’t playing hard, and (talking about) knowing our roles, that was the main thing,” senior forward Adreian Payne said. “We just didn’t seem like we were on the same page and we didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing as individuals.”
If anyone was writing a book on this season, half the chapters would be on players missing time because of injuries. The other half would be about the team struggling to play with each other when the injured players are back on the floor.
According to junior forward Branden Dawson, Walton said during the team meeting neither of those can be a cop-out for the team.
“(Walton said) for us to win a national championship we just need to dig down and come together as a team and stop making excuses,” Dawson said.
After missing more than a month of play with a broken hand, Dawson made his return to the court for the Spartans' loss on Saturday .
Coming off the bench to tie the game-high with seven rebounds in 25 minutes, Dawson said he was rather surprised on how well he felt after his return.
“I felt good, man,” Dawson said. “Honestly, I thought I was going to be dead-tired, but overall conditioning wise, I felt pretty good, I played 25 minutes and after the game, I felt good.”
Three days of film and reflection after the game, Dawson said the biggest area to work on is keeping the energy consistent. The only knock the coaching staff had was taking some plays off on defense, but overall the coaches said “overall my defense was great.”
Appling’s shot improving
In his last 103 minutes of play, senior guard Keith Appling only has attempted 10 field goals. Needless to say, he isn’t the same dominating player he was before his wrist injury started to settle in.
But now that MSU has ramped up practices during spring break and his wrist is gaining strength, Appling said he expects to get his shot back sooner than later.
“With my wrist being the way it was for so long, I had to kind of adjust flicking my wrist a certain way,” Appling said. “Now that it’s feeling so much better, I can’t even believe I can do some of the things I can do now.”