Thursday, February 22, 2024

Naymick still adjusting in Spartans' system

December 3, 2003
MSU freshman center Drew Naymick puts up a shot in front of Bucknell guard Kevin Bettencourt during the Nov. 21 game at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated Bucknell, 64-52. —

"Drew, Drew!"

While coming off a screen last week and waving his hand toward the point, freshman walk-on guard Tyrone Deacon tried to direct his teammate Drew Naymick to where he was supposed to be, while the Spartans went over a new offensive set.

Too late.

"Get out!" rasped head coach Tom Izzo's booming voice from the baseline. "Get out!"

Knowing he'd been caught looking lost in practice, freshman center Naymick paused, looked at the hardwood for a moment, then walked with hands on hips underneath the basket.

Welcome to Naymick's baptism onto the MSU basketball team.

At 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, Naymick's young face and red hair belie his size. The 18-year-old from Muskegon is receiving a trial-by-fire season, pushed into developing as a Big Ten post player by MSU's lack of front-court depth.

In his senior year at North Muskegon High last year, Naymick was committed to MSU on the pretense that this season could be an opportunity to redshirt. At the time, freshmen big men Paul Davis and Erazem Lorbek were showing improvement, redshirt freshman Delco Rowley was practicing with the team and junior center Jason Andreas was coming back for his final season.

But in May, Lorbek bolted to play professionally in Europe and Naymick's size was needed immediately - ready or not.

"I'm expected to pick things up and maybe contribute much faster than in the case if Erazem would have stayed," Naymick said in reference to former Spartan Lorbek, who left the team in the offseason to play professionally in Europe.

"I need to do a better job of that, of picking things up - nuances of the defense and certain aspects of the offense," he said.

In a season just four games old, Naymick has shown strides in practice, but has seen limited minutes in games. His rebounding and shot-blocking, along with his five available fouls and a body in the middle, have given him playing time in all four games.

Against Bucknell, Naymick played six minutes, grabbed two rebounds and was held scoreless. His best game was a two-point, five-rebound outing against No. 1 Kansas on Nov. 25.

"From the beginning of practice until now, he's probably made as much progress as anyone on the team," Andreas said. "He's got to play, contribute to this team. We all have a lot of faith in him that he's going to contribute this year."

As the Spartans muck through the season's tough early opponents, Naymick expects to be Izzo's fourth option in the front court. For now, his place is the bench, coming in after redshirt freshman forward Delco Rowley relieves sophomore center Paul Davis or Andreas.

Though all of the Spartans' big men offer Naymick a mouthful when he makes a mistake - or a pat on the back just as soon as Naymick's ear stops burning - Andreas, a Sugarcreek, Ohio, native called "Cowboy," seems to have found himself a deputy in Naymick.

"He reminds me of myself as a freshman," Andreas said. "He's 6-foot-10, and the guys he's played against are 6-foot-3.

"He's playing against guys his height, but not only his height, but a lot stronger and a lot more mature than him."

Like most Big Ten post players, Naymick will have to add some bulk to his angular frame in the offseason. At his position, most players weigh around 250 pounds.

Just don't expect Naymick to blossom overnight into the next instantly recognizable big man on MSU's campus. The Izzone might chant "Ball-in-ger" when Naymick and his bright red hair get a touch in a game at the Breslin Center, but for now, he's still working on getting recognized.

"I was with him a couple days ago, and someone walked up to him and asked if he was (former Spartan) A.J. Granger," Andreas said. "I think I'd rather be called Adam Ballinger than A.J. Granger."

Then, just as quickly as he gave Naymick credit for his early adaptation to MSU's rigorous basketball program, Andreas turned diplomat.

"No offense to A.J., though."


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