After rolling both of his ankles last Thursday against No. 13 Seton Hall, it still looked as if sophomore forward Aaron Henry would still play in Monday’s matchup against Charleston Southern. Henry continued to play after his injury last Thursday and warmed up with the Spartans Monday night, but when it came to the announcement of the starting lineup, sophomore forward Gabe Brown was in his place.
“Tonight was just a matter of looking at the perspective on things and me being my best,” Henry said. “I want to go out there and show the best and perform the best I could, and I’m not there yet.”
But Brown, the 6-foot-7 Ypsilanti, Michigan native did show up in his first career start.
“I had never started before so I was kind of nervous being out there," Brown said.
However, it appeared that the sophomore forward worked well under nerve-racking conditions. Brown put up 12 points and six rebounds against the Buccaneers to contribute to the Spartans' 94-46 victory.
From the bench, Brown said Henry, who was missing the first game of his career, was talking to him the whole time, critiquing his game and coaching him through his minutes.
“That’s what really meant a lot to me,” Brown said before praising Henry for “starting early” with the sideline encouragement. “That’s going to play a big role down the stretch when March Madness is hitting, Final Four is hitting.”
Brown spent the most time on the court of any Spartan, playing nearly 28 minutes, during which he slammed down three dunks that sent the Breslin Center into chaos.
“I thought Gabe did a pretty good job,” coach Tom Izzo said. “He's had a couple good games in a row now. ... He's attacking the rim, he's going to the offensive glass, he's running the court better, he's making shots.”
With Henry out, in addition to senior guard Joshua Langford's continued absence with an ankle problem, walk-on redshirt senior Conner George saw the court in the first half, totaling two points in seven minutes.
As for Henry, he expects to make a full return by practice on Wednesday.
Izzo agreed, joking that he told Henry to “saddle up” for practices as the team begins preparation for the Maui Invitational which continues Nov. 25.