The Spartans' floor leader is speaking up -- and there's talk of the Final Four
If there is one point coach Tom Izzo wants to get across to Kalin Lucas, hissophomore guard, it's that the 6-foot dynamo -- who Izzo says is the quickestplayer he has ever coached -- has to become a better leader if the Spartans are toreach their potential this season. "I harp on it no more than 50 times a day,"says Izzo, who wants to see him become more vocal on and off the court.
Lucas is getting the message. When he wasn't working on his outside shot orgetting to know his teammates better this summer, Lucas was studying game film"so when I talk to guys, I know what I'm talking about." Izzo has already seensigns that Lucas will be more of a leader this season. "He's a poor man's ChrisPaul," says Izzo, comparing Lucas with the former All-America point guard atWake Forest who is now with the NBA Hornets. "[Lucas] has a chance to be notjust a good one, but a great one."
The same could be said for the group Lucas is now calling "my team." TheSpartans bring back five of the top six scorers from last year's Sweet 16squad, including slashing junior forward Raymar Morgan and senior center GoranSuton, the Big Ten'ssecond-leading rebounder last year. Suton, a skilled big man who was criticizedearly in his career for being soft and insufficiently passionate about the game,has trimmed his body fat to 8% (down from 20% three years ago) and continued toevolve into a player who can -- and wants to -- bang in the paint.
The supporting cast is a talented collection of players who can score,provide the depth and athleticism Michigan State needs to run and have theversatility to play big or small. "We have a lot of bright spots," says Izzo,"though at this time of year I can name probably a hundred deficiencies."
One area of genuine concern is the progress of highly touted freshman DelvonRoe, a 6' 8", 220-pound forward from Cleveland who hasn't played in a gamesince undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee a year ago. "He'sprobably the second- or third-best player on our team, but there's still aquestion about when he'll be able to practice full-go," says Izzo. "He'sdoing well, but it'll take time, and unfortunately the first three weeks of ourschedule look like the Lakers'."
The game on Dec. 3 stands out, and not only because it's againstNo. 1 North Carolina. The teams will play at Ford Field in Detroit, site ofthe 2009 Final Four -- a point Izzo doesn't need to harp on. "That's our biggestmotivating factor, knowing the Final Four is only an hour and a half away," saysSuton. "Making it there will be hard, but [we'd have] home court advantage. Whatcould be better than that?" -- Kelli Anderson
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