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Basketball: Magic back in Breslin

November 2, 2001
Magic Johnson laughs at a picture of himself in high school while guest speaking on the radio show Mad Dog and Company at the Lansing Meijer. Magic Johnson All_Stars will be playing against the Spartans tonight.

Fans have had months to speculate and bicker, and today some of those speculations will be substantiated.

After numerous player losses and recruit additions, the MSU men’s basketball team will take the court in an exhibition game against the Magic Johnson All-Stars at 9 p.m. today in the Breslin Center.

The game doesn’t just signal the return of head coach Tom Izzo’s much-loved team to Breslin. It’s also the first time since 1995 that one of the school’s greatest legends, Magic, will play in Breslin.

Magic led the Spartans to their first national championship in 1979 in his senior year before the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him.

He has continued to support MSU, showing up at Spartan basketball games over the past years and even lends his support to this new team.

“When Duke lost all those players, everyone said, ‘Oh, it’s all over for Duke’,” Magic said. “What does Duke do, they come back and win the national championship because guys stepped up.”

And Izzo will have a similar challenge in front of him.

After losing seven players, including forward Andre Hutson and guard Charlie Bell, many skeptics have claimed in the offseason this year could be disappointing if compared to the past few years.

Four Big Ten Titles. Three Final Fours. A National Championship.

It’s a lot to live up to.

This game will be the first chance for Izzo to see how difficult it will be to keep it up.

“It’s going to be a good test for us,” sophomore guard Marcus Taylor said. “It’s going to be very beneficial because it’s our only exhibition game so we have to take it seriously.”

Many fans point to the incoming freshman class as plugs for the holes made by the losses.

Freshman guards Kelvin Tolbert and Chris Hill, and forward Alan Anderson will be looked to mature fast if the team expects to experience the success of past seasons.

“All the players that are playing against us are experienced players and anytime you get to play against experience players, it’s going to make your team better,” freshman guard and forward Alan Anderson said.

“It’s going to be something nice.”

Magic’s connection to the team has grown even deeper due to his relationship with Taylor.

Their fathers have worked together at General Motors, and Magic has known Taylor for years, watching him grow as a player.

Magic said he’s confident Taylor can step into the leadership role he’s looked to fill.

And if he doesn’t, he’ll let him know.

“I think Marcus is going to have to be 100 times more aggressive than he was last season,” Magic said. “So I’m going to be in his ear every minute of that game, wondering if he’s aggressive, asking ‘What’s wrong? Why aren’t you taking it, why aren’t you creating a shot for yourself or the other guys?’”

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