Izzo expects Nairn to become key leader
Despite Saturday night’s door-slamming end to MSU’s season, the team’s tournament run might be remembered as a fairy tale.
As the Spartans shift their focus to next season, it looks like the 2015-16 group will inhabit a different form, possibly resembling that of a DC Comics book.
Batman and Robin will be expected to run the show, according to head coach Tom Izzo. That is, junior guard Denzel Valentine and freshman guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, will be the leaders of the team as it pursues a return to the Final Four.
As a senior, it will be Valentine’s team next year, Izzo said, but Nairn will most likely be second-in-command. They’re both on a mission to win the title next season and the recent loss to Duke only fuels Nairn’s fire.
“It’s life,” Nairn said. “You gotta be able to take the hits. This is a major blow for me. I’m sure it’s a major blow for everybody on the team, but you know the type of person I am, the type of human being I am; I thrive off things like this.
“I can promise you; I can promise my teammates every single day, I’m gonna give it everything I got to win a national championship.”
Nairn became just the second Spartan freshman ever to start at the point guard position in the Final Four and the fourth to start an NCAA tournament game for the program.
Before the season, Draymond Green and Mateen Cleaves were impressed by Nairn’s leadership abilities.
“He’s not caught up in stats,” Cleaves said. “He just does whatever he has to to help this team win. I do think he’s on track to be in that conversation when you talk about some of the best leaders at Michigan State.”
Beyond his team-first mentality, Nairn approaches life gleaming with positivity. His attitude is infectious, Izzo said. After a few regular season games this year, Nairn would sing in the locker room as media huddled around other players. Other times, he’s been spotted singing aloud while walking through Bessey Hall.
“Every day’s a good day,” Izzo said. “That’s what he starts every practice with — ‘It’s a good day.’ For him, every day is a good day. I gotta learn from him because all my days aren’t good days.”
On one of Nairn’s sadder days as a Spartan, he was the first player to speak up in the locker room following the 20-point loss to Duke, Izzo said.
“They all made sure we said ‘let’s remember what it’s like to be here,’” Izzo said. “We’re gonna get back here again. I don’t know when, but we’re gonna get back here.”