Tom Izzo Struggles to Contain Excitement For Incoming Freshman
There is not argument that the Michigan State Spartans under the leadership of Tom Izzo had a fantastic season. The Spartans started the season not even ranked in the top 25 and finished with a B1G title, a B1G tournament title, a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, another sweet sixteen and the coach and player of the year. Not a bad season by anyone’s standards.
Izzo is already looking ahead. His 2013 team will be more talented and part of that reason is the incoming freshman class. Top to bottom you have to search a long lineage to find a class as talented as this one.
Izzo raved about his new freshmen when he said recently, “We think we’re going to be helped athletically by Gary Harris. If you watched any of the Class A or Class B State Championship team, you’ve got to give Sexton a lot of credit for the unselfishness. And it was led by their star, who I think will be coming here to be a very, very good player even as a freshman. That’s (Denzel) Valentine.
I’ve never seen a player that passed the ball and was as unselfish. So hopefully he’ll bring some of that to us. One of the joys I had was looking down and seeing Matt Costello in the stands. I text him and said, “What are you doing here?” And his text back, because I heard he was there Friday night too, was, “I’m watching my new teammate win a State Championship to learn how it’s done.”
I thought that spoke volumes for what we have coming in too. At the end of the year, Gary Harris, and Kenny Kaminski were both up. Kenny who couldn’t play all year at the end of the year did play in their tournament. He finally got well enough with his shoulder where he could go the last couple games of the regular season and played extremely well. One of my assistants saw him shoot the ball extremely well even after having eight weeks off.
So we’ve got Mr. Basketball runner up (Denzel Valentine), Mr. Basketball (Matt Costello), who knows what’s going to happen in Indiana, and of course Kenny was unable to play most of the year because of the injury.
But we think we have an incredible class academically and athletically coming in. We have something that we needed. We got a big guy. We got a shooter. That’s something we needed. We got an athlete. That’s something we needed. And we got an incredible passer.”
Gary Harris is the all world player with all the press. He is an immediate game changer and a for sure one and done candidate. The player that Izzo can’t contain his excitement over is Lansing Sexton star and runner up Mr. Basketball Denzel Valentine.
When asked about the point next year Izzo talked about Keith Appling and Travis Trice, but he couldn’t wait to talk about Valentine. He raved saying, “…In Denzel, right now I would call him my utility guy. I just think he can play one through four. Allen Anderson typish, except he already was a high school player works so hard on his game. Every day he’s working out. We’re going to continue to work on that body and try to make him a little quicker. Work on the shot. Try to shoot it better. But he has a couple intangibles: Intelligence, feel for the game, the ability to make other people around him better. He’s Day‑Dayish as far as understanding the game.
But his handle and his ability to pass the ball up the court, I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him, because you never know what’s going to happen. His quickness will have to continuously improve. But he sees the court as good as anybody I’ve had here, watching him in high school. Anybody I’ve had here. As far as the passes he makes, and the unselfishness he has. There are a lot of guys that can make plays and make passes, and make other people better. But he can do it exactly when that guy needs it. Whether he’s taking the ball out of bounds after the other team makes the basket, throwing it the length of the court. He doesn’t need to make the spectacular pass. He can make the wraparound. Can he go behind his back, between his legs. He can do all those things, or he can make a real, simple, easy pass and enjoys both.
I mean, I called Day‑Day a miniature, miniature, miniature Magic in a lot of ways. But Denzel has a lot of those qualities that I used to see in films of Earvin because he’s always got his head up. If you watch him play, his head is up from the minute he’s about to get the ball.
Meaning, the ball goes through the basket, and he’s already got his head up looking at where he’s going to outlet the ball too. If he’s got the ball in his hands, he sees everybody, everything, and can make a simple pass. He’s big enough to see over people.
But his intelligence of the game right now is definitely his biggest asset. Yet he works hard enough at the game. He’s got a good-looking shot. He just needs reps on it. We’re going to get that body looking like a fine toothcomb. I think Denzel has a chance to make his parents proud and get to enjoy watching him play for the next three or four years.”
Matt Costello not only won the Michigan Mr. Basketball award, but he gained the respect of his future teammates for his play more than the award. Senior C Derrick Nix called him while the team was in Phoenix, “He’s a nasty white boy.” It was meant as a compliment for sure.
Having a big with the talent and ability that Costello does has Izzo fired up. He said of Costello, “I like that. I like that. I think Costello is a work horse. He’s a 4.4 student. He works. I went and watched him throw the discus a year ago. I think he works at everything he does. His dad has pushed him. His coaches pushed him. He’s pushed himself. He’s got a long way to go, like every kid. But he’s played in a decent league and put up some very good numbers. He can do more than one thing.
I think by the number of games he’s come down to, too, he’s fit in with those guys already. I think that’s neat. I think that’s neat for Valentine. I think even Gary got up more than a little bit. Kaminski got up because of the injuries. So those guys, and I think Nix has an appreciation, because he knows some people stuck by him. I think he will stick by people, and those things are priceless. So if that’s what we have to put on his jersey, nasty white boy, I’m cool with that. That’s a great name. Better than his own name.”
So as 2012 retires to the memory books an incredible incoming group of freshman makes sure that the Spartans once again reload, not rebuild!