There is a growing trend in college hoops these days.
“One and done.” It is a phrase that finds its way to the lips of virtually every Division I college basketball analyst, coach and player.
Breaking news: top recruits are leaving for the NBA to get paid. Some basketball programs such as Kentucky are built on this inclination while others value tradition above money and fame.
This is where Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo’s loyalty lies. This season Izzo is attempting to keep an impressive streak in tact. Izzo has sent every member of each of his recruiting classes to a Final Four since taking over at MSU in 1995.
Seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are two players Izzo says he owes a trip to the Final Four to.
Both Payne and Appling have shown NBA potential, but have never hinted at leaving MSU early. The tradition and culture at Michigan State are too strong. Their connection to their beloved coach’s philosophy is too great.
And it is not just Izzo. The MSU students, alumni and fans everywhere are unlike any other in college basketball. If you don’t believe me, just sit a few rows behind the Izzone at the Breslin Center when the Spartans take on Michigan.
East Lansing does not fall in love with basketball every three or four years, or when all the highly touted recruits are all finally on the same team. Basketball is a daily fascination at Michigan State, due mainly to an intense culture of respect for the game.
That takes years to build, and MSU’s respect for the process of creating a great team is stronger than ever. In this case, patience is the greatest virtue.
This season the Spartan roster shows a remarkable balance of home-grown talent (Denzel Valentine of Lansing Sexton) and nationally-recognized fresh faces from miles away (Gary Harris of Fishers, Ind.).
Izzo has become a master recruiter while keeping is loyalty to the cause of winning at the colligate level the first priority. Perhaps this is the reason high school superstars such as Jabari Parker (signed with Duke) chose to go elsewhere to play basketball.
If you play for Izzo, you put team before self and nothing before the team.
There is something magical happening in East Lansing this winter. The Spartans began the season ranked among the nation’s top teams and with good reason. Dynamic players such as Harris, Valentine, Appling and Payne make for a tough matchup for any college basketball team come tournament time.
Even more impressive than the Spartan roster this year is how they got here. This season is a culmination of the masterful craftsmanship by one of the nation’s best basketball coaches.
It would not have been possible if the mastermind had recruited players who were interested in leaving school early.
This year’s MSU team is perfect for achieving Izzo’s dream of winning a second National Championship and is even better for college basketball.
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