Winston learning the ways of defense for MSU basketball
MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo has continually alluded to more court time for freshman guard Cassius Winston paired with junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
As Izzo continues to shift lineup combinations, Winston and Nairn demonstrate their offensive and defensive mentalities. While the more experienced Nairn is highly touted for his on-ball defense, he said the pairing during practice has lifted both of their games tremendously.
“He learns from me, I learn from him, it’s a give and take,” Nairn said. “When you come to college you have to understand that every second matters, every possession matters, and I think he’s starting to do a better job at that.”
As the master helps the pupil, Winston’s defensive growth will have a big assignment against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ have a potent scoring duo in Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. Webster is third in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game.
Izzo said he told Nairn to go at Winston as hard as possible when they are matched up against each other in practice.
“On the offensive end he’s one of the quickest guys, so I have to move my feet, always have to be ready for him to attack and stay in front of him,” Winston said.
Recognized for his vision on offense, Winston has fallen victim to the level of athletes in college basketball.
A similar narrative to Winston, fifth-year senior guard Eron Harris was noticed for his ability to score during his first few years at West Virginia.
Although each understood the importance of defense, Harris said growth comes with time, and eventually he realized the need to look at player tendencies during film sessions.
“Study the other team — I’m expected to do those things and at West Virginia they didn’t tell us about that stuff,” Harris said. “It was just different. I don’t think we paid as much attention to detail at the time.“
With his transfer to MSU, Harris said he noticed how stressed the defensive side of the ball was, rather than playing just one side of the court. The three-part motto of Izzo’s coaching philosophy: defend, rebound and run, had Harris redefining himself as a player.
“I came to a winning program where I didn’t want to be the reason why we started losing,” Harris said. “My focus on defense has risen drastically.”
As Winston tries to become more well-rounded, he will have to grow through his inexperience as a freshman.
“Just playing defense constantly,” Winston said. “There’s a lot of times you play defense but you take a break and that’s when they make that quick move or that sudden movement that you have to try and react to. You have to focus at all times for all 30 seconds that you’re on defense.”
MSU men’s basketball will play Nebraska on Feb. 2 in Lincoln, Neb. The game will tipoff at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.