Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Marcus Bingham's message to team rings through tragedy

November 11, 2019
<p>Senior guard Cassius Winston (left) and sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr. (right) talk after a timeout. The Spartans defeated the Britons, 85-50, at half on Oct. 29, 2019 at the Breslin Student Events Center. </p>

Senior guard Cassius Winston (left) and sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr. (right) talk after a timeout. The Spartans defeated the Britons, 85-50, at half on Oct. 29, 2019 at the Breslin Student Events Center.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Tom Izzo took the podium, eyes glossed, voice raspy and delivered a simple message.

“When you leave here tonight, whoever it is — son, daughter, older mother, father, wife or husband — it would do you good to tell them you love and you appreciate them,” Izzo said. 

“And it would do you a lot of good and any people closest to you that you say that, you say it, and you say it and you say it.”

This mantra, coming in light of the tragic death of senior point guard Cassius Winston's younger brother Zachary Winston, was not perpetuated by his staff, loved ones or even Winston himself.

“I was proud of Marcus Bingham,” Izzo said. “Marcus Bingham ... stood up, and Marcus doesn't say a word, and he said, ‘Everybody in this room, go to your room, call your family members and tell them you love them.’”

The sophomore forward, whose career-high 13-point, six-rebound, three-block showing helped lead No. 1 Michigan State (1-1) to a 100-47 win over Binghamton (0-2), made an impact the night before the game that rendered his performance in the game insignificant.

Bingham, soft-spoken and lighthearted, is known primarily for his posturing and flexing from the bench. He has been expected to showcase significant growth physically, but his emotional maturity stood out more than Izzo or his teammates could have ever expected ahead of Sunday night.

“For Marcus' standpoint, it was kind of huge for us to hear him say that and not just be the funny guy, but be the mature guy that we can count on day in and day out,” junior forward Xavier Tillman said. “And that's something he's been showing these last couple of days and just huge growth, huge jump, huge maturity. It's going to be big for him.”

Bingham’s impact on the court remained one of the biggest question marks in all of college basketball ahead of this season, as the preseason No. 1 team still seeks its answer at the power forward spot.

The Grand Rapids Catholic Central product capped some off those question marks with exclamation points, finishing multiple dunks and providing much-needed length on the defensive end through the first two games of his sophomore campaign, while still showing room for obvious growth.

And with their main source of maturity and insight mourning the loss of a brother, the Spartans — players and coach alike — gathered it from the least likely source.

“For Marcus to say that, you don't understand it because you don't know him that well, but it was like I said to (assistant coach) Mike (Garland). … Sometimes you gotta make and learn and grow from positive things and negative things, and last night I probably grew as a coach, as a person, as a father," Izzo said.

While Bingham was not made available, Izzo closed by reiterating his message to the reporters gathered for the press conference.

“Just do what I said,” Izzo said, emphasizing the importance of checking on loved ones. “I know sometimes you don't like to do what I say but this is one time, do what I say. You'll be better off.”

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