FROM TRAGIC TO MAGIC
This is an article from the Nov. 9, 2015 issue
Growing up, Denzel Valentine had a small forward's body and a point guard's skills, prompting comparisons to another prodigy from Lansing, Mich. But at Michigan State, the comparisons became far less apt. "I used to say he's trying to be like Magic Johnson, but he's more like Tragic Johnson," coach Tom Izzo says. "He just turned the ball over so much. He wasn't making bad decisions. He was trying to be too fancy."
Now a 6'5" senior guard, Valentine has reversed that tragic trajectory. Last season he was the only player in the Big Ten to rank in the top 15 in points (14.5), rebounds (6.3) and assists (4.3); he also hit 41.6% of his threes. Led by Valentine, the seventh-seeded Spartans took a surprise trip to the Final Four—especially impressive considering that he was battling two sports hernias that required surgery last April.
Valentine will play alongside Eron Harris, a 6'3" junior transfer from West Virginia (42.2% on three-pointers as a sophomore), and 6'3" senior Bryn Forbes (42.7% last season) to form the best long-range trio in the country. The roster is deep (eight players have started at least once) and talented (see 6'10" freshman Deyonta Davis). Valentine's final season could be headed for a magical ending.
PROJECTED TEAM STATS
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 114.5 (16th)
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 95.2 (42nd)
BIG TEN RECORD 12--6 (T-2nd)
Gavin Schilling's inconsistency and poor free throw shooting (47.9% last year) have limited his minutes. But during the team's summer trip to Italy, he scored 17 points in two of the three games and averaged 7.0 rebounds.
With 2015--16 projections for the top six scorers
Coach Tom Izzo (21st season)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|G||Denzel Valentine* 6'5" Sr.||16.4||7.2||4.8||113.8||24.2%|
|SG||Eron Harris 6'3" Jr.||11.1||3.1||1.3||108.5||23.7%|
|SG||Bryn Forbes* 6'3" Sr.||9.9||2.2||1.1||118.3||16.6%|
|PF||Matt Costello* 6'9" Sr.||9.8||6.8||1.1||121.2||19.0%|
|SF||Marvin Clark Jr.* 6'6" Soph.||8.0||3.8||0.6||108.2||21.4%|
|PF||Deyonta Davis 6'10" Fr.||7.6||5.5||0.7||103.0||20.0%|
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
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