Sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr.’s ceiling is expected to be as high as his 7-foot-4-inch wingspan can reach. But even after gaining roughly 15 pounds over the offseason, he did not crack the starting lineup until the Michigan State men's basketball's second game in Maui, a 93-85 win vs. Georgia.
He held the position until Sunday, when he and fellow sophomore forward Aaron Henry returned to reserve roles.
“It's an ongoing dilemma because it's the one spot we have that is, I won't say it's the weakest spot, I'll say it's most inexperienced spot,” Izzo said of the power forward position.
“I'm a little worried about Marcus (Bingham Jr.) starting games out. Nervous energy seems to make him tired faster," he said.
Bingham Jr.’s disappearance from the starting lineup came after a five-point, five-rebound showing in MSU’s 67-63 defeat at Indiana. While he shot a poor 2-of-6 from the field, the 6-foot-11-inch forward showed rare offensive initiative with the Spartans in an early 6-0 hole. Bingham Jr. recovered from a turnaround miss and commanded the Spartans' ensuing possession, stepping confidently into a face-up jumper for his and MSU’s first points.
“Starting the game like that, it was real big for me because I just started trying to do stuff I'm working on,” Bingham Jr. said. “I worked on those type of shots. So to see it pay off is real good.”
The Grand Rapids native mentioned his focus on post touches as of recent, as Izzo has often voiced his scrutiny of Bingham Jr.’s shot selection.
But when evaluating Bingham’s play on the road trip, Izzo highlighted “immeasurables” in his Tuesday presser.
“What we learned last year when we changed from when (former MSU forward) Nick (Ward) got hurt is we learned the value of the things you don't see,” Izzo said. “You always see the measurables. You see the stats. ... What you don't see is the guy in the right position. ... Is he setting on the right screen?”
Izzo also discussed the necessity for Bingham Jr. to contribute in off-ball defending, something he has executed well compared to his expectations prior to this season. As junior forward Xavier Tillman averages 2.1 blocks per game, Bingham averages 1.5 himself.
This is where the intangibles come in for Bingham, as his length has altered many of the shots Tillman blocked, whether he played off or on the ball.
Defensively, his presence in the paint is invaluable, and offensively, his budding ability to stretch the floor could prove the same.
“If I get Marcus' best, I'm going to benefit,” Izzo said. “So, don't let it worry you whether he starts, he doesn't start … He didn't play the second half (at Minnesota). That as the first time he played less than 13, 14 minutes. That was earned. ... That was a one-time thing. I expect everything to go back to normal as far as the minutes he plays."