Shooting a basketball comes pretty easy to Michigan State’s Kenny Kaminski.
So easily that it has become apparent to opposing teams that have realized what coach Tom Izzo has said for a while: Kaminski might be the most pure shooter on the Spartans’ roster.
“I’m in the scouting report now,” Kaminski said. “I’ve noticed against Minnesota in the second half they immediately got our of their zone every time I came in.”
Hitting your first five 3-point attempts in a game will do that, but with teams now keying on him as a shooter, it increases the need for Kaminski to fix the other thing Izzo says about him: He can’t guard.
”That is what will keep me on the floor,” Kaminski said. “If I can’t be in there making shots and being a liability on defense, I have to have a complete game to play on this level.”
In an attempt to challenge the forward to play better defensively, Izzo followed up on an idea from the previous week. Following practice Sunday, he pitted Kaminski against some of his “jets” to make him guard as he challenges him to care more and grit his teeth.
“If you wanna stay on the floor, you gotta be able to defend,” senior guard Keith Appling said. “We made him guard some quicker guys and he did a pretty good job of sucking it up.”
The intended one-on-one sessions for Kaminski against primarily Alvin Ellis and Travis Trice became much more when Izzo checked up.
”I walked over and looked down and the whole team was down there in a semicircle watching,” Izzo said. “Half were ribbing him and half were pulling for him. (Assistant coach Dwayne Stephens) comes up and says, ‘Can you believe that?’ I said, ‘No.’”
The coach said it was his favorite thing he has seen from a team with a chemistry he lauds often. His senior point guard Appling said the players were giving Kaminski some heat, but also giving him motivation.
Kaminski said his teammates sticking around instead of moving to the team lifting session showed the character of the team that cares about everyone and improving.
”It was motivating and challenging,” he said. “Everyone knows I need to get better on the defensive end. We care so much about basketball that guys are going to put in extra time when asked to. That was just a perfect example of it.”
So his teammates rotated through, giving him “10 minutes of straight defense” and the necessary challenge to improve.
“I care about the game of basketball,” he said. “I’ve gotta continue to improve. It’s not easy. I haven’t played in two years. I have a lot of high expectations of myself and coach has high expectations for me as well. I just gotta continue to keep improving and hopefully become a little more of a complete player.”
Some progress toward being a complete player was visible above Kaminski’s right eye Monday – a “battle scar” from Friday’s practice.
Kaminski and forward Colby Wollenman collided head-to-head as the Spartans practiced for Illinois, resulting in 12 stitches.
The injury came as Kaminski was fighting for a rebound on the defensive glass.
”Coach is always riding me about my rebounding,” he said. “I went up for a rebound and jumped back and (Wollenman) jumped forward and we hit heads.”
So will Kaminski point to the stitches as a reminder to Izzo that he is working to play defense and rebound?
”Absolutely,” he said.