No proven star, but plenty of breakout prospects for Michigan State basketball
On the eve of the 2021-22 season, theres no shortage of Big Ten Player of The Year hopefuls, from Illinois Kofi Cockburn to Purdue s Jaden Ivey to Ohio State E.J. Liddell and Michigan, according to the league.
None of those candidates, on the other hand, wear a Michigan State uniform.
The Spartans enter the season with a solid cast of returners and some potentially impactful newcomers. But, at this time, it has a distinct lack of star power compared to recent years, when it had players like Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges, and Denzel Valentine.
While Tom Izzo loves having stars as much as the next coach, he claims a similar amount of success has been had without them.
It makes me feel at home, Izzo said last week at Big Ten media days. Theres been a lot of years when I didnt have runner-ups, and we went to the Final Fours.
While Michigan State may have success without a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, it will need someone to give the ball to at crucial end-of-game moments.
Aaron Henry, the Spartans do-it-all player by seasons end, led the team to a late NCAA Tournament appearance last year.
This year, four or five different players might be the Spartans late go-to guy.
Coaches hope to see a player take charge of that role between now and the Spartans Nov. 9 season-opener against Kansas.
We need one to emerge, Izzo added. As we start practicing for real, with 31 days left before our first game, thats what were looking for as coaches, he says.
Izzo described several possible players who could play a major role for the Spartans in 2021-22.
Gabe Brown, who will at last step into a starting role after three seasons as he was deemed unfit to play after being released by the team as an injury. He was the Spartans best long-range shooter as a junior, hitting on 42 percent of his 3-point attempts, and has played in more games than any player on the teams roster.
Brown admits he hasnt been consistent throughout his Michigan State career, but reveals a lot more will be expected of him this year.
Brown said he was just doing everything I can on the court, from a leadership standpoint to scoring to rebounding. Im one of those guys that has to do it all. Thats one of those things Im working on right now.
Joey Hauser, who joined Michigan State in 2019 as a highly sought-after transfer following opulent freshman campaign at Marquette, is another.
He scored almost a dozen points per game, and he shot 34 percent from 3-point range during his first season at Michigan State.
Izzo, on the other hand, believes that a new year, and in particular some fresh blood at point guard, could make Hauser 'a much different-looking player' in his second season.
I dont think anyone has seen the real Joey Hauser, Izzo said. I love the kid, I think hes got a chance to be really, really good.
Along with Hauser at the power forward spot is Malik Hall, who has been a solid defender and rebounder in his two seasons at Michigan State.
Hall, on the other hand, hopes to expand his role beyond the Spartans' on-court staples, while also taking on a leadership role as he leads the team.
I want to take on a bigger role, and being able to be accompanied by armed forces was just part of that, Hall stated. I want to be able to take on a bigger role on the court. I think its something Im always striving for, something that I have been working towards.
Max Christie, the Spartans first undrafted guard since Gary Harris, was referred to by Izzo as the teams best-recruite guard by the coach, an indication of the role the program wants him to play next year. Izzo said he considers him a candidate for the Big Tens freshman of the year award because if Hell be in the Spartans starting lineup from day one,.
While Michigan State may not have any player of the year candidates at the start of this season, he isnt saying that it will have some at least at end of season.
I think we also have candidates that, who knows...whats going to happen, Izzo said.
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