Spartan freshmen class hungry for difficult start to the season
With opening tests against Arizona on Nov. 11 in Hawaii, followed four days later with a battle against Kentucky in New York City and a tournament in the Bahamas, MSU basketball’s freshman class will be tested early with big games and long days of travel.
The incoming freshman class which features forward Miles Bridges, guard Cassius Winston, forward Nick Ward and guard Joshua Langford, who will be the central focus of this season’s MSU men’s basketball team, the team hopes to fill the shoes of former players Denzel Valentine, Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello.
“The schedule in November will be brutal for me, it will be brutal for those of you that are following, and it’s going to be brutal for our players,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s 13,600 miles in 22 days. That is taking on something that we’ve never really taken on before. With the one and two ranked teams in the country being Duke and Kentucky, we’re going to play both of them... We’re playing a good Arizona team, possibly a good Louisville team, Baylor and who knows who else will rear their heads before we’re done.”
Just a year ago, MSU’s record remained unblemished until the back end of December. However, the only had Kansas for a true test.
Although the imminent task is daunting, Izzo said especially in Winston and Langford’s case, the four freshmen “know how to win.”
Winston led U-D Jesuit High School to a with a performance of 31 points and nine assists over North Farmington High School last year. Langford was crowned state champion three times in the state of Alabama.
With the spotlight shining bright, the incoming freshmen said they aren’t backing down from the competition.
“We spent this summer and all this time to be ready to play the highest level of basketball without any hesitation,” Winston said. “When you come to college you want to play against the best competition. I want a piece, we want a piece of them.”
The Spartans, however, struggled early with front court injuries to and . With these injuries, Izzo will have to rely more on Ward. Looking out of shape coming into his freshman year, Ward said he has lost 23 pounds and can easily log 25 minutes a game.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.” Ward said. “I take all the competition, everybody the same. I’m going to go out there like it’s my last game every game.”
Before starting their slog around the United States, MSU will have two exhibition games: Oct. 27 against Northwood University and Nov. 2 against Saginaw Valley State University.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Bridges said. “We are not going to put anything past anybody this year, and that’s how I think we will succeed.”
Izzo said if he knew Davis would have been gone for this year, then he wouldn’t have scheduled such tough opponents. He said he is confident this young core can get the job done.
“I feel like it’s going to be a challenge, but I love (a) challenge,” Ward said. “We are going to step up as a team and get the job done.”