Saturday, October 24, 2020

Michigan State mens basketball sacrifices social media in hopes of greatness

October 3, 2019
Junior forward Xavier Tillman laughs while being interviewed by the press during Big Ten basketball media day in Chicago on October 2, 2019.
Junior forward Xavier Tillman laughs while being interviewed by the press during Big Ten basketball media day in Chicago on October 2, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

ROSEMONT, Ill. — It was late into the night on September 19 when the cryptic tweets started to show up on the Twitter accounts of players on the Michigan State men's basketball team.

From sophomore forward Thomas Kithier: "See you in April 2020."

From sophomore guard Foster Loyer: "Gonna be a fun year with my dawgs! See y’all April 7th."

And from sophomore guard Gabe Brown: "Watch how we shock the world CB #44OUT."

There were many more, coming from almost every player on the team — each eerily similar to the next.

The reason behind it? The Spartans, coming off an appearance in the 2019 Final Four, looked to take out any distraction that could keep them from taking the next step: a national title.

“We had a meeting a month ago, and we were like, ‘Hey, in order to get where we need, everybody needs to sacrifice something that means a lot to us,'" junior forward Xavier Tillman said Wednesday afternoon during Big Ten basketball Media Day. "Social media for us teenagers is what it is. So, (I) got rid of Twitter and that was huge.”

There aren't many college students that would make a decision like this. Well, the Michigan State basketball team has larger aspirations than most college kids. With a loaded roster, headlined by the unanimous 2019-20 preseason Big Ten Player of the Year in senior guard Cassius Winston, the Spartans are firmly among a group of teams that are expected to compete for this season's national championship.

“It's something to sacrifice. We feel like, in order to be a championship team, there has to be that one thing we sacrifice," Tillman said last week, after Michigan State's first official practice of the season.

"And it has to mean something to us. A lot of guys, we’re teenagers, we like to be on social media. ... (We thought) OK, if we can get off Twitter and lock in more in the gym, and lock in more on film, maybe that will help us get that extra step, so that's something we wanted to try.” 

Michigan State was also unanimously picked as the No. 1 team in the Big Ten by a group of USA TODAY sports network writers and has two players, Winston and Tillman, on the 2019-20 Preseason All-Big Ten team. This has given Michigan State coach Tom Izzo a reason to smile heading into the new year — that, and the fact his team is off Twitter, a website he has been vocally against for years.

“It was happy, except that they got these other things: Snapchat," Izzo said during Media Day. "Twitter is something, because I don’t like when they read what everybody says because I think that screws up more kids, I really do. It screws up more people. If it means that they’re going to take that seven to eight hours of social media that the average college student is doing and we could get it down to five, I would be happy. But, if they change Twitter into Snapchat or something else, it’s still a waste of time to me.” 

So, whether this "Twitter ban" helps Michigan State reach the next level or not, Izzo will enjoy his team's decision regardless. But, the Spartans hope it ends up being much more than a simple social media hiatus.

“I think it's important to put aside something that may take up more of your time to make you focus on what the task is at hand," senior guard Joshua Langford said. "We all agreed with it as a team that it was something that we should do.” 

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