What is the difference between the Michigan State basketball team and a race track?
They are one in the same when thinking of Tom Izzo’s 2007-2008 squad.
At media day on Wednesday, Tom Izzo kicked off his press conference by stating that this year’s team will get back to running the court, much like the 04-05 team that went to the Final Four.
“I guess the first thing we'll change this year is our style of play after being forced to slow it down last year,” said Izzo. “I'm pretty determined to run from the day that we started, which we did. And look back to getting to the point where this team's scoring a lot of points.”
If Midnight Madness was any indication as to how fast the team will play, it is easy to see why this team has such high expectations.
Benefiting from four electrifying freshman: Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Kalin Lucas, and Austin Thornton, Izzo’s team now has a great mix of youth, energy, and veteran leadership from seniors Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick as well as Travis Walton.
Izzo said after Midnight Madness that his dream would be that the team score all of their points on the fast-break, because they are that fast and capable of doing so.
The freshman showed off their electric stuff at midnight madness last week, with Allen throwing down an alley-oop from Travis Walton, Summers showing how he loves to dunk the ball, Lucas finding open guys and showing off his speed, and Thornton putting on a shooting display from outside.
These freshmen are the key components that will make this year’s bunch a running team. Tom Izzo spoke about every one of his players, giving praise to his new guys specifically, saying in general that the team has added four guys with phenomenal athletic ability.
Guard Kalin Lucas, 6-foot, 180 lbs
“I think he’s the quickest I've ever coached,” said Izzo. “And that ranks up there with Sam Vincent who I thought was a jet. Kid can get the ball from one end to the other as good as any guard we've had since I've been here. He pushes it well. He has good skills, he can use his left hand and he can use his right hand. He is one of the best defenders on the team.”
Guard Chris Allen, 6-foot-3, 195 lbs
“I think he will be the best shooter on the team. I think he's one of the best shooters we've had since Shawn Respert. That's putting a lot on his shoulders, but I believe he's worthy of that. He has range, he has a picture perfect shot. He get it's off the same way every time. He has very good ball skills. In a pinch, he could have played some points and done some things. So he's kind of a three dimensional guy that can play three different positions.”
Guard Durrell Summers, 6-foot3, 195 lbs
“Durrell is my poor man's Jason Richardson. He is an improving shooter. I thought it would be a weakness, but in the midnight deal, he shot the lights out and he shot the ball pretty well so far in practice. He may be the best athlete on the team but he must improve his defense. Because when you're a 2 and 3 man in this league you're going to be guarding some of the best players in the country.”
Forward Austin Thornton, 6-foot-5, 200 lbs
“He is probably the toughest of the bunch. He's got great toughness, very aggressive, and improved his 16, 17 footer into the shot that he was very good at, and now he's gained some range on it. I have been impressed with all of the freshmen shooting the ball.”
The buzz among the players at media day was about how much fun they are going to have running the ball down the court as well as handling those high expectations.
“It’s going to be fun, we are working hard every day at practice so we can be conditioned to run the lanes like crazy up and down the court,” said Summers.
“Us running is going to set up a lot of opportunities but us being deep is going to help us out big time because we can run our hearts out and it will be all right because we will have guys coming in and out,” said Allen.
An aspect that comes with running on the court is the potential for more big plays up the court.
Junior power forward Marquise Gray was responsible for numerous electrifying dunks last season that sent the fans in the Breslin Center into frenzy.
With guys like Allen and Summers always in the air ready for a slam, there should be even more excitement and intensity during home games, creating an even larger home-court advantage.
This year’s basketball team features players that can fill specific needs in every aspect of the game, some have phenomenal athletic ability others excel on defense, and one thing that is a great indicator from most of the players on this year’s team is that they carry strengths on both offense and defense.
Now it will be up to Izzo to gel everyone together in the two weeks before their first regular season game on November 13.