Michigan State basketball finally gets to step on the court against an opponent other than themselves when they host Grand Valley State in an exhibition on Friday night.
It will be a tougher test than one would think, with the Lakers giving the Spartans all they could handle in an exhibition one year ago, leading by as many as 16 points in the first half. Drew Neitzel led a Spartan rally back with 27 points and Goran Suton added 16 as the two combined for 43 of MSU’s 63 points on the game.
The Lakers were 29-5 last season and went to the Elite Eight of the 2007 Division II NCAA Tournament before losing in overtime to Barton.
“It’s going to be fun, because they are not a pushover, they are a very solid team, we are not by any means taking them lightly, we are going to treat this like a regular season game,” said Drew Neitzel.
As the Spartans return all five starters and eight of their top nine scorers, the Lakers return four of their starters and 8 players overall, including leading scorer Jason Jamerson, who scored 23 points against the Spartans in last year’s contest.
Callistus Eziukwu, who averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season, is a major threat inside for the Spartans and will test the Spartans big-men as well.
“They are a real strong team, they can shoot the ball, (Jason) Jamerson, (Pete) Trammel l, and they got a guy inside that is really big,” said Raymar Morgan, who missed last year’s game due to injury. “Our defensive pressure is going to be key to try to stop the big men inside and try to go from there.”
Another side to this game will be how the new MSU freshmen play in their first college game, and how much they can show coach Tom Izzo any progress they have made.
“Grand Valley is a pretty good team, one thing we’re going to have to do is jump on them early, because we know they’re hungry and they’re going to come in here thinking they can beat us,” said freshman guard Kalin Lucas. “This will be a good game to see where we are, it’s our first game so we know we’re going to mess up, we know some things are not going to be there but we just have to learn from it.”
MSU will not only be playing to work on their game and chemistry as a team, but each player individually will be playing to impress the coach, equating into playing time once the regular season starts.
As Izzo has mentioned since practice started, he will look to play 10 guys total, because it is hard to play more than that and have a great working team.
With that said, the current MSU roster has 14 players on it, with newcomer Austin Thornton likely to be redshirted.
Walk-on Mike Kebler will be a bench reserve player, which slims the roster to 12 players who will be competing for playing time in the two exhibition games, Friday against the Lakers and then next Wednesday against Michigan Tech.
“Teams aren’t going to be able to prepare for one or two guys now, they will have to look at all of us, we can give them a lot of different looks, we just have a lot of different options,” said Neitzel. “The scouting report will be a lot deeper, there aren’t going to be just 5 or 6 guys playing; now we are going to have 9 or 10 guys they are going to have to look at.”
It will be much like a regular season mood at the Breslin Center on Friday, as the mighty Grand Valley Lakers bring a very experienced, competitive and strong team, but it might be exactly the kind of game that MSU needs to get them ready quicker before the regular season.