EAST LANSING — When Michigan State redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski lets the ball fly, you think it’s going in, no matter where he is shooting from.
On the flip side, when you see the long-range gunner guarding anyone on the opposing team, you just hope that someone steps over for help defense — if you’re a Spartan fan.
That’s Kaminski. A 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward who can shoot the ball as good as anyone in the country, but has trouble providing the things that have made his school the national force that they are today: defense and grit.
With the heap of injuries that have haunted the ninth-ranked Spartans for the whole season, Kaminski has been given opportunities to succeed and garner experience. Kaminski — who has had shoulder issues of his own in the past that have limited his play over the past couple of years — is shooting 68 percent (13 of 19) from 3-point range and averaging 14.7 points in games in which he plays more than 20 minutes this season.
However, due to academic issues and defensive problems that has left Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo more than agitated, Kaminski has only played 20-plus minutes in three games this season.
Offensively, Kaminski is one of the more dangerous players on the MSU team, and Thursday’s career-high 19-point performance — 5 of 6 from 3-point land — was a perfect example of what he can potentially bring on a nightly basis. However, he’s aware that if his defense doesn’t improve then he can’t provide his team with the dead-eye shooting off the bench that adds another dynamic to the Spartans’ diverse offense.
“Without defense you can’t play,” Kaminski said, “especially here.
“Coach takes pride in defense, he takes pride in rebounding — he always has. So, just because a guy can score that doesn’t mean he’s going to play. I got to be a complete player on both ends of the floor and continue to improve.”
Izzo has noticed Kaminski’s improvements on the defensive end over the past couple of weeks, and believes that he’s heading in the right direction.
“Well, he’s improving some,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “He’s improving some.
“He’s a good enough athlete to do it, too. He reminds me a lot of what Morris (Peterson) was. I think when guys never really have that as a priority, or secondary, or third or fourth-dary, it’s harder to learn how to grit your teeth and get it done. I do think it matters more to him, and that’s the first step.”