After you’ve read our season preview, take a look at these excerpts from today’s Big Ten Media Day press conference with Tom Izzo:
COACH IZZO: It’s great to be back and see you all. And I’m excited for the season. I can honestly say that it’s interesting, when you come in and you’re picked high — and we’ve been picked high before — and I think we deserve to be up there. I’m not sure we deserve to be where we are, and I’m not sure anybody does at this state and time, because of the parity that still is in college basketball. And I do think we’ve got a good team. I think we’ve got a veteran team. I think we’ve added some pieces. We’ve got some guys back healthy. You put all those things together, I think it gives you a shot, if guys handle the things that go with being ranked high and continue to get better each and every game. So that’s what I’m looking forward to. If we do that, I think it will be a good year.
Q. What is different about the challenge in front of Gary this year because people know him, because he’s getting the preseason attention, maybe as opposed to a year ago and just a touted freshman?
COACH IZZO: Knock on wood, there’s a couple of unique things about Gary Harris which could make him one of the best guards I’ve ever coached. And one is his mental approach to things. He’s a very humble kid, and he’s low maintenance. That’s odd this day and age. And the second thing, he’s a shooter that guards people. And that’s odd in this day and age, or any age, in fact, now that I think back to some of the guys that we’ve had many years ago. So I just think that he came back because he wanted to come back. He came back to try to accomplish more. He stayed up there all summer, didn’t go to the USA stuff or this or that. He just wanted to rehab, get healthy and get better. And he’s a gym rat. So I don’t see the celebrity side of it bothering him, as long as he stays healthy, which he’s had no issues at all. This kid has gotten better and better and I think will get better and be one of the all-time great guards at Michigan State.
Q. Just to piggyback on that question, how big is it going to be, A, to have him healthy, and B, to have him help establish the identity of the rest of your team?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think what he brings to us, we think we could be a great running team. And last year, between Dawson’s knee and how slow that came back and Gary after the third game of the year, I mean, unbeknownst to me I think he played hurt three-fourths of the year, not at 100 percent for sure. He’s just a tough kid that every time I asked him are you okay, he said yes. He didn’t run as well. He’s run so much better already that that could change the identity of this year’s team. And I think we’re going to be able to put more pressure on people. He’s better with the ball. I think we’re going to use him more in ball screens and things like that. So his health, his growth, his offseason, I think, is going to be a great part of who we are, and I think the fact that we can run again with both those wings is going to make us a better team.
Q. Being in Chicago, I know you’ve recruited this area a lot. Is there a different dynamic to recruiting Chicago than other areas of the country?
COACH IZZO: There’s always dynamics in bigger cities, because there’s more people involved in the recruitment and that goes anywhere. That was in Detroit when it was really hopping. It’s in New York and LA and the bigger cities. And yet, each city — it’s cyclical. It moves around. Everybody has its hot few years. I don’t know if it’s different in any city. I think there’s always the same issues. But if there’s good players, there’s going to be a lot of coaches around. If there’s a lot of coaches around there’s going to be issues. I don’t know if it’s any different than anywhere else. But I don’t know what else I can say. I don’t want to get slapped by somebody for saying the wrong thing as far as talking about recruiting. A lot of good players, a lot of coaches and good players. There’s a lot of middlemen.
COACH IZZO: I went to a press conference like this and looked out, I didn’t see 12 one-and-done media guys, because right now you’re the only people that aren’t one and done. It’s changed a lot. And some for the better. Some for the worse. I am concerned about it. I feel bad for recruits now because I think everybody — we’ve almost made the NBA like it’s a right instead of it’s a privilege.
So it’s different in some ways, but I think coaches will adjust better than players. I feel for the players. I think there’s more pressure on them in a lot of ways. But there’s better players. There’s guys that have developed earlier. We’ve rushed the system, which is okay in some ways. But it will be interesting to see 10 years from now how many guys were one and done, were two and done in the league, how many guys had success or failed. That’s my biggest concern for the game and for the players is does this speeding-up process where we end up recruiting on potential and then drafting on potential, instead of doing both under performance. I think it’s a little scary and something we’ve got to keep an eye on. But the game is — a lot of good teams out there. We’re ranked second, but, man, I look at teams 10, 12, 14, I just think there’s so much parity and they’ve got to put a number on somebody, and
I think it’s a privilege to have the number. I really do. And it’s going to be fun to live up to it and it’s going to be fun to try to — we’ve got some big games that first week, and that’s going to be exciting. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m a little bit concerned about some of those things, but at the same time college basketball is as good as it’s been and good as it’s going to get — I think it’s going to get better, to be honest with you. I’m excited to be a part of it. Great turnout, and see you later.
If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to read our season preview.