East Lansing, MI
There is no doubt that Deyonta Davis is a great basketball player. As he rises on the NBA mock drafts around the nation it only proves why he was one of the most sought after recruits last year. Now that doesn’t mean the fact he played sparingly in the second half of the Spartans NCAA first round upset by MTSU doesn’t matter. He must get bigger physically and better at defense. Fortunately for him he is still good enough to leave now for the millions of dollars sure to come in the NBA, or he can stay and improve for another year.
Tom Izzo addressed the decision of leaving or staying that his star has to make this year. “My only hope for Deyonta, I’m not blaming you guys on this, but I will get my one dig on you guys. When you guys start rumors out a month ago and things and people start writing things. That makes it hard. When I say you guys, somebody in the media. That’s OK. That’s what you’ve got to do some days, I do understand your job. Nobody understands how these kids take things. And when we sit there and I make my normal rips on the social media, I’m telling you, you still don’t appreciate how an 18-year-old, a 19-year-old or 20-year-old takes the same things that they hear every day. And this thing about they’ve got to be a big boy, they’ve got to handle it, I mean, come on, are you kidding me, I don’t hand it very well. And I know I’m better off than handling it than they are. So, DD, we’re going to meet with people after we talk to people and that. I think DD is fine where he’s at. I think he knows what he’s got to do. I think guys like Matt McQuaid, Eron Harris have got to take serious steps up and then we’ve got to figure out what some of those guys are going to be able to do, who’s going to be able to make a jump and who’s not. Because we need a couple guys to step up. We’re not sitting there as Kentucky, where we think a recruiting class is coming in and dominating. I think a lot how Schilling and Deyonta and I think Eron and Matt, for example, guys that played a lot this year, how they progress is going to be as important as anything else. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Izzo simply wants to get past the hyperbole of talk and to the bedrock of reality. He went on to add that, “Here’d be the facts: The facts are, I don’t know. I am going to assist him, I am going to talk to GMs, talk to his high school coach, his grandmother, and I’m going to talk to DD, I’m probably going to give him my personal opinion and I’m going to remind everybody that you have to be able to physically. You have to be ready to go skill-wise, and you have to be ready to go mentally. And so, a lot of times, they see a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. I’m also going to look at now. The trend is not as many people are coming out. Because they don’t want to go to the D-League, they don’t want to go to this and that, survive in that. And we’re starting to get more numbers on kids that fail. All I want for Deyonta Davis is for him to be successful. Until Hollis tells me, I’m keeping my job whether Deyonta Davis is here or not. And if somebody wants it, that’s OK, too.”
Izzo has been vulnerable admitting in the past that it is better for his program in recruiting for a player to go early than staying. He was badly criticized for telling the truth about that. But he doesn’t think in ways that are only about him and is program. How many players go early, stay briefly and never succeed? It is about a career, a second and third contract for a player. Not just saying you had a cup of coffee. Izzo has always focused on players before program, when it comes to NBA decisions.
“That’s the ultimate goal and that is what I think is changing in that. There are getting to be more guys that are coming out and maybe not ready to come out. And but that’s another thing, you can say you don’t know how it’s taken, but how do you think it’s taken when that is put out there a month ago. How do you think that’s taken, by people by the players, by everybody. Like he’s ready to go. I tell Dick Vitale that all the time. ‘They should stay in school.’ ‘By the way, he’s the No. 1 pick.’ How do you take that? It’s very difficult and it’s very difficult from our standpoint, because everything I say is going to get misinterpreted. Here’s what I will say, I would like to do whatever I can do to give Deyonta Davis the best chance to be successful, to be the most equipped to handle the real world. And if that means he comes out tomorrow, I’m 200 percent for it. If that means he stays three years, I’m 200 percent for that. That’s the most honest answer I can give you. But this: What I want most is what’s best for the player. That is a definite. What I want most is what’s best for the player. When you think I have a personal agenda in it, it’s just not worth it anymore. And remember what I tell all of you off the record, because I can say it now, because I really don’t care: Players leaving early is better for my recruiting than players staying. So what I should do is kick him out. ‘You’re out of here.’ Then I don’t have to listen to, ‘He doesn’t want guys to be one-and-done.’ Very difficult thing, but I tell you what, it’s a difficult decision for kids to make nowadays because of our society and everybody spread the process up so much. It’s difficult.”
The problem is not just Izzo’s. Every coach and player faces stupid narratives. Denzel Valentine and Draymond Green weren’t hurt by going back to school. Tim Duncan was better for it, despite what people tell young players about instant gratification and money.
“When I hear someone say ‘Well they hurt themselves going back’, I don’t know how you can ever hurt yourself. If you don’t have as good of a year, maybe that’s your fault. Maybe you would have done the same thing at the next level. When are you mature enough to handle that? If he is this year, I’ll be the most excited guy, and I’ll sit in that green room with him.”
No matter what decision Davis makes let there be no doubt his coach will be by his side. Helping Davis explore the nuances of the decision from every angle is now Izzo’s task. Spartan Nation should not think about what is best for them, simply what is best for Davis. You never go wrong looking out for the young man and what is ultimately best for him.