Thursday, September 16, 2021

Randolph may leave U early for NBA; Izzo shows support

April 11, 2001

Sophomore guard Jason Richardson’s decision to leave college early for the NBA hit MSU fans hard, but things may get worse before a recovery can begin.

At 1:15 p.m. today in his hometown of Marion, Ind., freshman center Zach Randolph is scheduled to address the media about his basketball future.

It’s likely he’ll be entering the NBA Draft.

“You don’t have a press conference if you’re not leaving early,” said Dave Telep, director of college basketball recruiting for Rivals100Hoops.com.

Telep said answering the question of whether Randolph is ready for the NBA after just one season of college ball has become irrelevant. He said the NBA is only concerned about talent - not a player’s ability to make an immediate impact.

“The NBA has made a commitment the last five years to draft based on potential,” he said. “Zach Randolph is an NBA draft pick.”

Moe Smedley, Randolph’s basketball coach at Marion High School, said he doesn’t need a press conference to know his former star is leaving MSU.

But Smedley said Randolph could better himself on and off the court if he stayed another year at MSU.

“I think it’s a little premature,” he said. “I’m still hoping he’s got the presence to change his mind. I think he’d do himself a favor to stay another year.”

Smedley said no one can fault Randolph or any other early entry, including Richardson, for taking the money. He said it’s an easy way out of a bad situation for many of the families involved.

“There’s too much pressure on young kids today. They’ve become pawns in a big money game,” Smedley said.

Whatever Randolph’s official decision is today, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said Tuesday he will support his freshman 100 percent.

Izzo said he believes Randolph will be a first-round draft pick, but probably not a lottery pick.

However, Izzo said Randolph has yet to sign with an agent to the best of his knowledge - leaving a possible return to college open even if he is drafted.

“Everyone has to do what they have to,” Izzo said. “It’s a tough situation and I have told him what I think is best for him to do.”

Analyst Telep said Izzo better get used to having players leave the program early. He said it’s part of college basketball and elite programs like MSU will always have to deal with it.

The last Spartan basketball player to leave early was Earvin “Magic” Johnson in 1979. And despite recent unfoldings, Telep said MSU’s program will survive.

“(Izzo’s) got more tools than 95 percent of college basketball,” he said.

“All you can do in college basketball is continue reloading. With guys like Kelvin Torbert coming in, Michigan State will be in good shape.”

Eric McKinney can be reached at mckinn54@msu.edu.

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