EAST LANSING — Lady Luck hasn’t been fond of Michigan State junior point guard Travis Trice over the past couple of years.
Since becoming a member of the Michigan State Spartans in 2011, Trice has endured numerous injuries that have hindered his development, and at times, left the Spartans without a consistent shooter on the bench.
Right before Trice’s freshman season, the 6-foot-0 guard hurt his back while blocking former MSU player Brandon Wood’s shot and was sidelined for two weeks. The bad luck continued during the season as groin and ankle injuries caused him to miss some games and limited his performance.
The summer before his sophomore season, Trice was hit with a virus that was hard for doctors to diagnose, and caused him to lose 20-plus pounds. After recuperating from the illness, Trice came back only to suffer a concussion and broken nose in the Spartans’ opening-season loss to the University of Connecticut. Then, nearly three months after the initial head injury, Trice suffered another concussion against Illinois that caused him to miss time as well.
Fast forward about seven months since the Spartans’ 71-61 loss to Duke in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament, and Trice has finally had a full, healthy summer to work on his game.
“It felt great being able to play the whole summer, and not having to worry about getting hurt and getting in the swing of things,” Trice said during Michigan State’s media day on Tuesday.
According to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, Trice may be his “most improved player” heading into this season, and the 25 pounds that Trice said he gained from the end of last year to now is a big reason for that improvement.
“I think it’s helped a lot,” Trice said. “It’s almost made it easier. I feel like I’m stronger now where I don’t get as tired easy. It’s easier to go a whole week of practice and not get fatigued.”
Trice’s teammates have also noticed a difference, but it’s not just his stockier frame that’s caught their eye, it’s his mindset as well.
“I think confidence and leadership are the two biggest things that stick out to me,” Michigan State redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski said. “Being down to what he was weighing, he would get pushed around by guards a little bit, so he wasn’t able to do the things he normally could do. Now, he’s back to where he was, and more. So now he’s doing more, he’s leading more, and I think he’s really the glue of the team.”
Trice spent a lot of his time in the offseason back home in Ohio where he worked out with former University of Michigan point guard Trey Burke — now a member of the NBA’s Utah Jazz — as he prepared for the NBA. Trice, along with other Big Ten players, such as Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson, worked out with Burke in Columbus, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Trice’s hometown of Huber Heights, Ohio.
“It helped to get away from here and get to workout with somebody new, somebody you can compete against every day,” Trice said. “It was kind of cool to switch up the scenery and work with different guys.”
This year, Trice returns to the Breslin Center with a cast of familiar faces — with the additions of freshmen Alvin Ellis and Gavin Schilling, and minus Derrick Nix — in a “championship-or-bust season,” he said. But this time, with a successful summer in the books, not only is he expecting more out of himself, but his team is expecting a lot out of him also.
“It’s great to have him healthy,” Michigan State senior point guard Keith Appling said. “It’s not only going to help me, but it’s going to help our team as well. For a guy like Travis to come in and not have a significant drop-off in production it’s going to be great for us, and it’s going to allow me to sit on the bench and gather myself a little bit more.”
For most college basketball players, in-season goals include cliché answers, such as: “work hard,” “win a national championship,” “improve my defense,” and “help the team the best way I can.” But when you’ve went through all of the misfortunes that Trice has went through, all you can do is hope the things you can’t control go in your favor. And with Trice being the team-oriented guy that he is, you’re going to get a cliché answer, too, but with this experienced Michigan State team, his goal is a real possibility.
“I just want to get through the season healthy and win a national championship,” Trice said when asked about his goals this season. “If we win a national championship everyone is going to get the recognition they deserve.”