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Frontcourt a question mark for Spartans

October 14, 2009

Redshirt junior Tom Herzog is one of three players poised to start at center for the 2009 men’s basketball team. The Flint native has played in 29 games, averaging 3.4 minutes per game in his MSU career.

As he was going through workouts and individual skill work this summer, junior forward Tom Herzog had a motivation he never had in his first three years with the MSU men’s basketball team.

Instead of improving his jump hook so he only could impress in practice, Herzog was preparing to show off his moves to a Big Ten arena on a regular basis for the first time in his MSU career.

“Sitting on the bench for three years when I knew I was good enough to play, but it just wasn’t my time here, it just really hurt,” Herzog said Wednesday at MSU’s annual Media Day. “Now, it’s just so exciting to know that now when I’m working on a move, this is a move I’m going to be able to use in a game.”

Herzog, along with freshmen Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman, is one of three centers listed on the MSU roster, and MSU head coach Tom Izzo is hoping each of them can step in for departed centers Goran Suton, Marquise Gray and Idong Ibok.

Perhaps the only way to fully comprehend exactly how big a void the trio needs to replace is to look at the stats. Suton, Ibok and Gray appeared in 380 games (starting 162) and played a combined 5,808 minutes for MSU during their careers. They also combined to average 13.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.

Herzog has played in 29 games (starting one) and played 100 minutes during his Spartan career, averaging fewer than one point and one rebound per game.

“I am concerned about the fact that we have no proven center, yet we can go small early and I think be pretty effective,” Izzo said. “That will be a good weapon for us that we definitely will use, but we’re going to play games against teams … that have very good big inside men and I don’t have a good answer for that right now.”

All three of the potential centers saw significant changes in their bodies during the summer. Herzog, who weighed 232 pounds at the end of the season, said he weighs 248 pounds Wednesday. Sherman said he came to East Lansing weighing in at 258, but has now “lost 12 pounds and still gotten stronger.”

And for the second consecutive season, MSU had a freshman big man who worked in the offseason to drop a significant amount of weight in Nix. The Detroit native who was “anywhere from 330 to 340” in high school, now is listed at 280. Izzo said the 6-foot-8 freshman is “not even the same kid I recruited.”

Each member of the trio agreed the three of them have improved during offseason workouts.

Because of their competitiveness and skill set, Nix said he’s confident all three of the inexperienced centers will be able to step in and fill the shoes of Suton, Gray and Ibok.

“I think if we work hard it won’t be hard to fill in the spot,” he said. “Because whatever (the coaches) taught (them), they’re teaching us the same thing. So it won’t be hard to fill the spot, whether it’s me or it’s Tommy or it’s Garrick.”

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