For the large part of the first half of this college basketball season, the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) have been decimated by numerous injuries and illnesses.
To put things in perspective of just how bad the injury bug has bitten the Spartans this year, only three players on the team’s roster have played all 16 games this season: Keith Appling, Denzel Valentine, and Gavin Schilling.
But as for the players in the now who are dealing with injuries, none seem bigger than the one that star senior big man Adreian Payne is going through right now. For weeks, Payne played on through a nagging plantar fasciitis injury, which has now morphed into a sprained right foot.
Last week, Payne wasn’t expected to play at all in Michigan State’s victory over Ohio State. But 18 points and 32 minutes later, it appeared Payne’s injury wasn’t as big as it may have seemed. However, in the next game, Payne didn’t dress and was seen pacing the sidelines with a walking boot on his right foot.
“We gotta get him to 100 percent,” Izzo said. “I gotta look at the big picture for him and the big picture for us. There’s no question he showed that he can play with pain. If it’s going to linger because of playing, which I don’t know if that’s positive or not yet, we’re gonna definitely err on the side of getting him healthy.”
“I’m not a medical guy,” Izzo said of the possibility of seeing Payne play against Northwestern. “I was 98 percent sure he wouldn’t play in the Ohio State game but it all depends how these days go here. If he starts getting pain free and he really starts improving then I’d say he’s questionable, if not then he’s 98 percent more than doubtful.”
Other Spartans are also in the midst of some struggles as of late, as both juniors Branden Dawson and Travis Trice have experienced illness in the past couple of weeks, with Trice’s sickness leaving him completely out of the lineup in the Ohio State game and very limited in the game against Minnesota, while it appears Dawson just hasn’t felt himself as of late.
“They were able to run some tests (on Dawson) and we got him looked at yesterday,” Izzo said. “We’re running through tests today and I don’t know what that will bring and I don’t know what that will do because I don’t know what they are. I feel like he’s an important part of this whole thing and if we’re going to get better, he’s gonna play at that level too.”
As for Trice, Izzo says he is starting to come back a little bit after basically not practicing at all for the past 10 or 11 days.
“Trice, in a little walk through we had this morning is at least feeling a lot lot better,” Izzo said. “Starting to look a lot better. Now he has to start gaining some of the weight back that he has lost.”
However, despite all these setbacks, the injury-laden MSU basketball has still found a way to get out to a 15-1 start this season, something Izzo says he certainly would have taken at the beginning of the season, had the team all been healthy.
“I haven’t taken the time to enjoy it,” Izzo says of the 15-1 start. “But when you say it that way, since we haven’t been 15-1 many times in my career, or many times at Michigan State University, I think it’s an incredible feat, especially when we played some pretty good people to get to be 15-1.”
“I would have (taken the 15-1 start),” Izzo said. “That’s what’s funny. But I think you do that every year, you reassess your goals and you reassess where your team is.”
“It’s not part of the goal package but it is part of the process to get to the package.”