WHAT UP! Sports Squared is back! There was a hiatus, but you know…life happens. Now fueled by the football Spartans evisceration of Michigan and the upcoming basketball season hype, we’re back, just in time for the 2013-2014 basketball season’s first BOAT REPORT.
Everyone knows your Michigan State basketball Spartans are coming up on a season full of expectations, hopes and dreams. We all remember how this worked out the last time (RIP 2010-2011 season), but it’s time to shed those fears and embrace the hype. So without further ado, your boat report.
[Also, if you need some refreshing on the ship of dreams…here is in 30 seconds. Like this…except with fewer ice bergs.]
Captain: Keith Appling
Duh. Keith isn’t the most purely athletic player on this team, but Tom Izzo has been working for three years to craft him into a Big Ten point guard. Keith can drive, he can shoot, he’s a good ball handler and most of all, he should be a big part of the leadership on this team. Keith (or as we like to call him, Keef or Keither) often takes the game on his shoulders on the court – hopefully he’s ready to shoulder some of that leadership off the court too. Things to watch for- assist to TO ratio. MSU has said they’re going to push the pace this year (no really), so Keef keeping the TOs to a minimum will bode well for MSU’s success.
First Mate: Gary Harris
Even with two bum shoulders, Gary Harris’s freshman season was probably more than most expected or hoped for. Gar3 is one of the most talented shooting guards in the country and with a clean bill of health, he should continue to show the excellent shooting, driving and passing ability he displayed last year. Keep on keepin’ on Gar, you’re the best, DON’T GET HURT, etc.
Second Mate: Adrien Payne
Are you falling over with shock yet? AP, Gar3 and Keef were the heart and soul of the MSU team last year, and they’ll continue to be so this year if the Spartans hope to live up to their potential. This year Payne will be called upon to play more center, and he can bang under the basket and rebound with the best. He’ll need to be able to stand up to Big 10 competition though. Last year Payne was an excellent outside shooter and I’d like it if that continued.
Bo’sun: Branden Dawson
Coming off his freshman year ACL tear, BJ was not anything close to 100% last year. Everyone knew it, most of all Dawson himself. This year, apparently Dawson has matured and healed, and the coaches seem to be quite high on his development. His shooting was abysmal last year, and it probably won’t be much better this year, but if he gets back his explosiveness, who cares?
Cabin Boy: Matt Costello
Costello showed real flashes of greatness at the 5 last year.
Costello has great timing, making him an excellent shot blocker and rebounder. He can also run, something his predecessor, Derrick Nix, did not excel at. Costello is still a bit undersized for a center.
Swab the deck: Russell Byrd
LOOK. This is not a punishment. I am officially declaring myself President of the Russell Byrd fan club. I think fans can and should expect more production than we’ve seen out of Byrd yet. Dude is 6’7″ and a good enough shooter that he received offers from half the top basketball programs in the country. But Russell, it’s now or never. In conclusion:
Crow’s Nest: Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine
Trice suffered from the series of injuries that plagued MSU last year (SERIOUSLY NO ONE GET HURT EVER THIS YEAR OK?) including a mysterious brain illness (?) that caused him to lose over 20 lbs. With Trizzle back to his fighting shape, he adds a lot of excellent ball-handling PG dimension to MSU’s new fast-paced offense. We love Trice, obviously because #medialovesTrice but seriously, we’re glad he doesn’t have a brain bug anymore.
Denzel Valentine was also a great freshman surprise for MSU last year. He’s another great PG/SG with a lot of the natural skill at the position that Appling lacks. His driving is smooth and impressive and apparently he’s worked a lot on his shot in the off-season. His excellent size also makes him a good defender and rebounder, PLUS he wins the competition for “Best Name” on this year’s MSU team.
Other, etc. Ellis 3, Schilling, Gauna, Kaminski
We haven’t seen enough from any of these guys to give them a permanent boat position, but there’s a lot of promise here. For starters, Izzo burned Ellis’s redshirt and seems to think he’s got a lot of promise. The same goes for Schilling, and his size will be much-needed on this team lacking a true center. Gauna was sometimes OK last year and could be valuable as a solid backup. HOWEVER stop passing the ball to no one Alex, thanks.
Kaminski hasn’t started his MSU in the most auspicious way, getting suspended for poor academic performance before the regular season even started. However, according to Izzo he might be the best shooter on the team, so don’t count him out yet.
There it is, the boat report. Don’t forget to tune in on Tuesday when your #2 MSU Spartans take on #1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Go Green!