Costello: "A bunch of guys that are hungry"

Costello: "A bunch of guys that are hungry"

Spartans set to lose a lot - regardless of coming decisions - but pieces remain. Denzel Valentine said he is ready to take control of the team, while Tom Izzo says hold on. Taking a look at what the likely core pieces of next year's team had to say.

The Michigan State locker room was filled with sadness Sunday at the end of a season, but the knowledge that next season's team will look a lot different added to the emotion.

Matt Costello looked toward Adreian Payne and called him and Keith Appling as the faces of the program as they wrapped up their careers.

Junior Branden Dawson and sophomore Gary Harris have decisions to make about their future and whether to turn professional or come back to school for another year.

Sophomore Kenny Kaminski said the Spartans could even lose a fifth player – perhaps from a transfer.

In the face of so many shifting variables, sophomore Denzel Valentine tried to provide some certainty, saying it could be his team moving forward.

"I'm just going to lead everybody and I'm going to be on the guys about working hard," he said. "We're going to work hard and we're going to get here."

Coach Tom Izzo said not so fast on the team being Valentine's and said he has some necessary growth that has to take place before that happens.

"It think it's gonna be my team for a while," Izzo said, "but this spring it will be somebody's team. … Denzel's a good candidate. Gotta be someone who plays disciplined. He's gonna have to keep growing in that area. And it has to be somebody who cares and he's off the charts on that.

"I'd probably say it's leaning towards that but he's gotta do some work yet.

Valentine gained added experience through the injuries that afflicted many Spartans through the season and finished the year in the starting lineup. He said the season taught him the importance of consistency and hard work with a focus.

"Every day just have the goal in mind that you want to make it to the Final Four," he said.

Costello, who started the season in the starting lineup, said he and Valentine will be ready to put in a lot of work in the offseason and that he has realized basketball has to be a job – in mentality, anyway.

"You can't show up when you want to, you've gotta show up everyday," he said.

Part of the drive will come from the feeling of the Spartans' 60-54 loss to Connecticut. Kaminski said the hurt is something he had never felt before and is going to last for a long time.

"It hurts right now," he said, "but I'm going to keep this in the back of my mind at all times and try to do everything I can possibly can this summer so I can come back next year a different animal."

Freshman Gavin Schilling, who played in every game apart from the Elite Eight loss, said he is preparing to take his first season's experience and build on them.

"Confidence and I just gotta work on my overall game," he said. "My overall improvement this summer and come back a better player."

Both Kaminski and Schilling said they didn't know what the face of the program would be next year.

"The one thing I will say is this program is built so well that this is our expectation every year," Kaminski said. "We fell a little short this game, but next year the expectation is not going to change."

Neither are the root values that Izzo seeks to instill in each of his team. Three words were the basis of his focus for next year's team: "Defend. Rebound. Run."

"Maybe I'll add don't turn it over," he said. "And might add another one on there Don't touch anybody either."

But as the variables sort themselves out and decisions are made, Costello offered up his thoughts on the face of the program next season.

It wasn't a person or couple of people. It was a mentality and an approach.

"A bunch of hard workers," he said. "A bunch of guys that are hungry.

"We are going to be hungry and we are going to get it."

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