For Michigan State men’s basketball outlasted Ohio State 84-78 to complete the series sweep this season. To make the victory even more meaningful, the Spartans were able to do it in front of their home crowd on senior day.
Michigan State honored its three graduates, senior guard Tyson Walker, senior forward Malik Hall, and graduate student guard Jason Whitens.
“I love all our guys, love our seniors," sophomore guard Jaden Akins said. "It was their day and we had to find a way to win for them and send them out right. It was great to be apart of ."
Following Thursday’s practice, head men's basketball coach Tom Izzo announced that his son, senior guard Steven Izzo, plans to return for his fifth season as a walk-on and therefore did not partake in senior day.
Graduate student forward Joey Hauser walked last year, and would sat this one out. Of the three honored on Saturday afternoon, Walker and Hall are eligible to return next season for their COVID year.
"Nobody's for sure going anywhere and nobody's for sure staying anywhere," Izzo said. "These guys all have some decisions to make."
The three Spartans were honored beginning in the final few seconds of the game. Junior guard Davis Smith checked in for Hall, Izzo for Whitens and freshman guard Nick Sanders for Walker as the three kissed the Spartan logo and exited the floor.
As freshman guard Tre Holloman took the floor in place of Hauser, the graduate student stunned the crowd and kissed the Spartan logo for the second time in his career.
"I didn't really have a plan going into it cause I wasn't going to partake in the postgame stuff, but figured once I was the last guy I had to do it," Hauser said. "There was no question about it at that point ."
Following the conference showdown, the Walker, Hall and Whitens families walked their players onto the court where they were greeted by Izzo and his wife, Lupe.
After Walker and Hall were honored, the Izzone began the“one more year” chant that was then initiated once again by Izzo to ignite his post game speech.
To wrap up the senior day ceremony, Izzo grew emotional as he brought attention to what the entire MSU community has endured following the mass shooting on Feb. 13.
"You're the why, we play for you," Izzo said. "We fought through some tough times and I'm so proud of what this team went through and what our students went through and our community went through. We'll never forget the lives that were lost and the ones that are fighting."
Here's a look at the three players honored during Saturday's emotional postgame ceremony.
After transferring from Western Michigan last season (2021-22), Whitens tore his ACL just minutes into the exhibition game and sat out recovering the rest of the season.
During his senior year, he played a career-high 17 minutes against Portland in the final game of the Phil Knight Invitational and notched 4 points, his first as Spartan.
After transferring from Northeastern for his junior season, the Westbury, New York native had 28 starts his junior year. Walker returned for his senior season with a newfound level of confidence and eager to take on a larger role.
"Everybody cheering for me, I don't think there's anything like it," Walker said of senior day.
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The starting guard now averages 14.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game. Walker is one of two Spartans (alongside Hauser) to hit his 1,000th point milestone this year.
The forward from Aurora, Illinois is unique in that he is the only senior who’s spent his entire collegiate career dressed in green and white. Hall is often described by Izzo as the most versatile two-way player on the 2022-23 roster.
After sitting out for a large part of his senior season due to injury, Hall managed to get cooking on senior day with 10 points, three rebounds and a block against the Buckeyes while dealing with back spasms in the second half.
“Malik's my favorite guy because I've seen everything through him, he's been through it all," Izzo said."
The Big Ten tournament will begin on Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago. The tournament breakdown will be available once all six games are played on Sunday.
"I don't think we're the best team I've had I don't think we're great but we're coming into our own," Izzo said.
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