'Super Sophomores' ready to take college basketball landscape by storm
The “Super Sophomores” includes a National Player of the Year candidate and one of two captains for Izzo in Bridges, a bully in the paint in Ward, a growing point guard in Winston and a lengthy perimeter player in Langford.
Their skill isn’t the only thing that brings them together, more likely, it's a possible home cooked meal or a “friendly” tournament of 2K.
You know, just your typical summer living with four of the most highly regarded college basketball players in the country.
“We’re all brothers,” Ward said. “Last year we were really close, but this year we’re going to be a lot closer, because we’ve got a lot more help. We got everybody back now, it's going to be a scary year.”
That help comes in the form of height and size in the paint now with freshmen forwards Jalen Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman, and forwards Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter coming back from knee injuries.
Winston said having a year under their belt and everybody from last year coming back, “is scary.”
“We went through a lot last year, together, you know and the ball was in our hands a lot of the time,” Winston said. “There’s a lot of potential of things that can happen this year, you know, we look pretty good.”
Izzo said there’s one person in particular that’s the key not only in the “Super Sophomores,” but also to the success of this years team.
“There’s no question that for us to be great, Cassius Winston has to be the player that we all know he can become,” Izzo said. “Without a doubt, his play will play a major key to our season.”
Izzo said he gave everybody on the team four weeks to go home after finals in the first week of May, to get away from the university and relax.
Winston was back in East Lansing, lifting and working out to get into better shape after only spending two days back home.
“He transformed his whole body, and to me that spoke wonders,” Izzo said. “He was the only player on campus for most of that time. He did it with no other players around, which speaks volume.”
Someone who has also spoken volume to Izzo within the last month, is Langford, who Izzo said has “elevated his game even from the summer.”
“They always say your best improvement is between your freshman to your sophomore year, and I think this kid--I’ve got a bunch of guys working their tail off--none work harder than this kid,” Izzo said. “He’s probably in here more, spends more time on his game, is a very good student and it’s worked out well.
Izzo said the team expects Langford “to make a monster stride” on the offensive and defensive side of the ball this year, something the Spartan community saw a glimpse of towards the end of last year when he averaged 9.5 points per game in his last 11 games of the season.
For preparing for this season, Langford said “I’m just more comfortable” than his freshman campaign.
“Last year as a freshman, you don’t know what to expect so you’re kind of jittery,” Langford said. “This year, I’m more poised. I really feel like I’m making better decisions, scoring the ball well, and I feel like I’m somewhat a better leader.”
Langford said it “was great” for all four of the current sophomores to come back, and said last year they didn’t play typical “freshman minutes,” freshman usually play at MSU under Izzo.
“Most of the time, the freshman at Michigan State gradually get brought up into playing, but we played a lot of minutes last year,” Langford said. “So this year, I think that’s going to help up because we’re going to be able to know what it takes already and we’re going to be more comfortable with certain situations, because we’ve kind of already been there.”