Last season, Michigan State basketball lacked experienced bodies, especially in the front court. Now, with one of the most talented freshman classes the program has ever had, adding up with a couple of returning starters, the team is primed to have a double-digit number of guys seeing extensive minutes on the hardwood.
“I think the biggest plus with having a deeper team is that I got veterans, and they've done an incredible job of working with the four freshmen,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “My theory is player-coached teams are better than coach-coached teams, and those players have done the job acclimating relationships. So I'm excited about that. I think that we do have some guys that have improved a lot, some guys that are gaining weight, a guy who has lost some weight and I think that’s important. It's been a very enjoyable summer and fall — as always when you aren’t playing actual games.”
Three guys that have gained valuable weight are senior center Mady Sissoko, sophomore center Carson Cooper and junior forward Jaden Akins. Sophomore forward Jaxon Kohler has also transformed his body, trimming fat and adding muscle, something that has been a major focus of his this offseason.
In years past, there have been MSU teams that have talent but lack experience, and vice versa. Izzo knows that this team has both, and that his leaders's postseason experience will be key in helping the younger players understand what needs to be done in order to make it to where they want and are capable of being.
“I think that we've gone through things like last second losses, you see what happened last year and how close you are,” Izzo said. “There's always things that happen in the NCAA tournament, that somebody always loses. I think those guys understand that, but I also think they realize that rankings don't mean a lot.”
While the team does have plenty of depth in a litany of different positions, there are still some things that need to be improved upon to make the team even more well-rounded than it already is.
“I don't know if we're great at scoring the post yet,” Izzo said. “ I'm concerned about the shot selection a little bit, guys want to prove their two point shooters. Shot selection and turnovers will be more of an emphasis but that's yet to be seen. And then the biggest concern is how we put everybody together. Whether they can work together, but it seems like they have. But let's face it, their girlfriends, their buddies, their parents will have something to complain about if they don’t think their role is good enough, and that’s also right around the corner.”
Big Ten Media Days will be held in two weeks in Minneapolis to preview the Big 10 season. Izzo and unnamed players are scheduled to speak on Oct. 10. Their first exhibition game will be held 15 days after at home against Hillsdale College on Oct. 25.