News and Notes From Michigan State Basketball: Pre Season Ferris State Edition

Hondo S. Carpenter

News and Notes from Michigan State Basketball:Â Ferris State Edition

Branden Dawson could be the best true freshman player that Izzo has had. We all know that Izzo has had a lot of great players, but for those of us who look at other programs with immediate impact freshman and wonder about MSU, Dawson could be that guy. 

Dawson is smooth moving with and without the ball. He already has an NBA body like Raymar Morgan did when he showed up. The key in watching him will be his mental makeup.

The biggest question on Dawson is going to be his defense. He certainly has the ability, but he has to make it a priority or Izzo will curtail minutes.

After the game I asked Dawson about the importance of learning to play Izzo defense in relation to the minutes he will get. He said, “Very important. It is everything. That is what the man (Izzo) wants.”

In fact I asked Izzo after the game about Dawson and defense being the key to his minutes and he told me, “I have to get him to go from second and third gear to fourth and fifth.”

One interesting tid bit around the program is Dawson and the famous war drill. Russell Byrd told me that when they do Izzo’s now universally repeated football type drill that, “It is Dawson and everyone else. He owns it.” When I asked Dawson about that drill and his rebounding prowess the youngster said, “We did that in high school so it helps.”

One last nugget from Dawson is how he listened to Izzo. That may shock you, but most (Freshman) don’t. They come in with a lot of hype and it takes a while for that to wear off. He told me that he learned not by talking with, but by watching Day Day. He said, “You just shut up and listen. Talking ain’t going to help, so just pay attention.” He may be a good listener, but he also makes a good viewer.

I realize this is an MSU centric column, but four things stood out to me about Ferris. 

#1 In warm-ups they had two players who where wearing earphones and listening to music.

#2 Before and during the game an injured player was wearing sun glasses. In case you are wondering I did ask, yes they were shades. 

#3 Watching the injured player in the shades and a manager using their cell phones DURING the game. WOW. You are on a bigger stage and frankly they lost a chance to look it in my opinion. 

#4 During the above mentioned warm ups, probably 45 minutes to an hour prior to the contest, Izzo has all three assistants and managers out their managing and controlling what is going on as the Spartans warm up prior to the arrival of the refs. Ferris had no one. While the MSU players approached the game with a sense of business, it was apparent to me that Ferris had no clue what the next level looked like. Unlike Grand Valley who looked like they belonged at least when they upset MSU just a few short years ago.

Someone asked me what would happen to a player that wore the shades or earphones or was on their cell during a game? I simply said, “It wouldn’t.  I don’t put that on them, although they are adults and should respect the game more than that. I put it on the their coach. Coach Bill Sall is in his tenth year and by all accounts is a good guy and coach. I would have thought he would have wanted to shine on a bigger stage. It is one of those things that make you appreciate Izzo and his control of every little piece of minutia.

One Ferris alum said it best to me, “That is embarrassing.”

By the way thanks to the Izzone member sitting over my shoulder reading this who told me that they are called headphones now. Thanks.

As a big guy who has lost a lot of weight I know what that was like for Nix. He played really well. He played 17 minutes and didn’t look winded. If he can maintain the intensity he could become the lead big man on this team. 

It was the first time since watching him in high school that he seemed to be having fun. I love the big fella as a person and player and as soon as I asked him about what I thought and saw, his big smile beamed like a ray of sun and said, “It was a great feeling and it most definitely is fun for me now.” Great to hear from one of my all time favorite Spartans as a person.

Travis Trice may be the smartest basketball IQ player Izzo has had since the great Drew Neitzel. DNice just understood the game from every player, every position and every facet of the game. Trice shares that. He is the son of a great Coach (Travis Trice, Sr.) and that helps him. Trice has awesome court awareness and vision. The next time you see him play watch his eyes. He always has his head up and is looking like a chess player three moves ahead. 

I asked about that and no shock he referred back to his high school coach, father and best friend: Travis Trice, Sr. “Coaching is really just the process of always making you better. I have listened to what Coach Izzo wants and expects from his point guards and really just pay attention to that.”

Most impressive thing I saw? Day Day is taking more of a coach on the floor leadership role. With 16:16 left in the game Appling and the Ferris player went after the ball and it went out of bounds. When Appling started to complain to the ref, Day Day came over, pushed Appling back and said, “Good call ref.” 

Day Day may not have had all the stats, but what I saw from him was the best news of the young season. He led by example. He came here a kid, but entering his senior season he has grown into a man. “I know I have to make more of the team around me. It’s my job to make them better,” was his thoughts after the contest.

I was hoping to see more from Byrd. He didn’t play long, only six minutes. Coming back for injury he is going to have to learn to trust his body. It is clear he doesn’t. He played tentative. His first three point shot was short, but his second was smooth. He will be fine, but it is understandable being tentative coming back from so much. 

Byrd feels that it is going to be his legs getting back into game shape. I understand that, but having been around a long time, I think it is the mental part that will be the toughest. I have no doubts that the Big Red Machine can make that happen.

When it was announced early last year that Alex Gauna would redshirt I said it was a mistake. At the end of the year Izzo agreed with me. He is bigger and better and frankly I am surprised he isn’t getting more publicity. Gauna is a super kid and a very good player. He is very solid.

Adreian Payne is athletic. One of the most athletic big men MSU has had in ages. Can he take his game past athleticism? If he can he will be a force. I didn’t see signs of it against Ferris, but that is way to early to call fact.