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Men's Basketball Media Day Coverage

Oct. 11, 2017


Coach Izzo Full Transcript | Media Day Recap | Photo Gallery


EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State men's basketball held it's annual Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the Breslin Student Event Center. MSU head coach Tom Izzo held a press conference, which was followed by interviews and photos with the players.


Below are quotes from the players that spoke to the media on Wednesday:

Graduate forward Ben Carter
On being granted the sixth year of eligibility...
Really, really stressful time. I couldn't even start my appeal towards the NCAA to get my year back until February of this year. From when I got hurt in early October, to February, I kind of was just like, `man, what's next?' I can't even start my appeal, so I don't even really know what's going to go on in my life next; you know I'm injured, I'm away from my family, I'm in a place where I came to play basketball, but that was taken away from me too. It was a really trying time for me as a person and I learned a lot about myself. For the NCAA to give me that year back...I was actually in Vegas at the time, doing my rehab back home and I was just filled with joy. To be back around these guys, this group, this program, this city; it is special. To be a part of this team in particular is really a blessing to me. I have had a smile on my face every single day since I've been back, since this summer. Even after conditioning and lifting, even when you don't want to smile, my face is just lit up. I am truly, truly blessed to be here. I know it is very rare for people to get a sixth year and for me to get my sixth year and to be here on this stage is, I couldn't ask for more to finish my college career.

On how he feels physically...
Physically I'm almost there. I'd say I'm 85-90 percent to being full-go. I started to do some live things in practice, started scrimmaging. But for me, it's not the physical aspect that is really holding me back, it's the mental. When you go through injuries like such, it takes a toll on you mentally. It takes a toll when you want to go into a situation in which you've gotten injured before, you're kind of reluctant or hesitant to go back into that situation. For me, it's just taking it a day at a time. I kind of call it my little checklist. One day I'll do something and check it off the list in terms of what I've been able to do. Coach Izzo and the staff have been great with me. I've worked day and night with Nick Richey and Todd Moyer our strength and conditioning coach and athletic trainer and they've put so much time in with me to help me get to this point physically and I feel great.

Freshman forward Xavier Tillman
On the intensity differential between high school and college...
It's crazy, nothing is like here. This intensity is different because it's not like Grand Rapids Christian, Coach Izzo is looking at me in my face like, `you gotta show up, you gotta play'. So it's more personal and I think that would be the biggest difference between how my high school used to be and now.

Junior guard/forward Kyle Ahrens
On playing more of a wing role this season...
I'm really excited, especially with this team we have. It's going to be a special year.

On characterizing the talent on the team...
We have the talent and this team is very special. The team is very close; the chemistry, everything. It's amazing how far ahead we are right now from last year. Everyone is clicking; we're healthy and it's going to be really special."

On Miles Bridges' commitment to staying at MSU...
It brings everyone just, that one click. The energy is all here, everyone is excited for the season. It shows the kind of guy he is, he turned down going to the NBA for here, just to come back and be a part of this special program. That shows what Michigan State is.

On what he's learned from Miles Bridges...
What I love is going against him every day. He made me better, I hope I make him better. Just bringing the toughness every day to him, that way he's prepared and I'm prepared too. When we go out on that court, we know we're the best ones out there and we will do whatever it takes to win games.

Redshirt sophomore guard Conner George
On his offseason...
I'm from Okemos, so I was in East Lansing pretty much the entire time. I stayed in my apartment and I would come to Breslin every day. I worked out with our strength coach Todd [Moyer], I also worked with our G.A.'s and just spent time working out and getting better at my skills. Dribbling, shooting, and I obviously my main thing right now is just to get stronger and that's what I was focused on.

On his expectations for this season...
I want the team first, just taking one step at a time. Personally, if I reach the court I will try and make some shots. That's kind of my main thing, just get down while playing defense and our schemes we're supposed to play and just knocking down shots.

Freshman guard Jack Hoiberg
On team's expectations for this season...
We obviously have goals as a team. My goal personally is just to learn from the older guys and improve my game as much as I can.

On his biggest improvement since joining the program...
Definitely my defense. I've adjusted to the speed of the game; the guys here are much bigger, faster and stronger. Defending has been tough but I have definitely improved.

Junior guard Matt McQuaid
On his offseason...
This offseason I worked a lot in the weight room just getting stronger. Basketball-wise, just kept shooting and working on my ball handling and working off of two feet in the paint.

On team chemistry...
The team chemistry this year, I feel like it is as close as I've ever been with a team. Tum Tum [Nairn Jr.] is leading us, we're always close. That's just his personality so that helps. There is no phony stuff with this team, we're all close and we all have a different relationship with each other.

Sophomore forward Braden Burke
On summer improvement...
Well I committed here in May, so I got here in June for camp. I stayed here for a couple three weeks during camp. I got to know the guys a little bit and practice with the team a bit. When I was back home, I really worked on just what Coach Izzo and all the other coaches said I needed to improve on.

On his biggest improvement...
I've improved everywhere, but mostly I've worked hardest on improving my body and my endurance."


Redshirt senior forward Gavin Schilling
On the offseason...
Yeah, just working on those skills throughout the whole summer, just working on them every day. It has really increased my level of confidence on the offense end and hopefully I can portray that on the court this season.

On his year off...
Definitely, I look at it as a positive. I sat out a year and watched the game. I definitely got more mature mentally and physically. Now I see the game in a different way. I feel like my IQ has risen, it's gotten better as a player as well now that my game has gotten a lot better.

Sophomore forward Nick Ward
On feelings from last year versus this year...
It's a lot better feeling. We're big now. Last year we weren't that big. It's more competitive in practice.

On his performance in summer league and how he plans on implementing that style of play to the season...
I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve now. I'm just excited for the season.

On the number of bigs this year and how that's changed from last year...
We go a lot harder. It makes everybody better at the end of the day. We have seven, eight bigs, so this is going to make us better at the end of the day and makes us go harder. It's a lot more competitive. It's a lot harder to score. A lot more rebounds. Everything's much more intense because of the number of bigs we have.

On using pump fakes and other moves....
At the end of the day it's going to help me. Having to use a pump fake, having to rebound with two hands, having to run the floor a little harder. It's going to help me at the end of the day. It's a lot harder in practice.

On advice to give to Xavier Tillman...
To embrace the moment; it goes fast. I'm a sophomore now. Last year I was just a freshman, it felt like just a little bit ago. So, I would say to embrace the moment. Go as hard as you can each and every practice. Make yourself better.

On the different type of pressure from last year...
We had the same expectations last year. We had a different team but it was the same expectations. Nothing's really changed. I just feel a little more pressure, but it's positive, good pressure.

On Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter...
They bring experience. Gavin's now a five-year player and Ben's a six-year player. They have a lot of experience. When you pick their brains on ball screens or different things like that, it's always a big help in the long run.

On shooting in high school versus college...
Yeah, it's a lot different because people defend you differently. In high school you can get away with shooting in somebody's face. But in college, they're going to block it. It's things like that. I'm working on that. I'm working on my lateral quickness. My strength, my body, just a little bit of everything so that I can be a better player this season.

On the four sophomores coming back...
It's going to help us a lot in the fact that we are a year in experience-wise. It's going to help us a lot as far as experience, bringing the freshman along because we had to jump in the fire early. So, it's going to help us in that aspect. And competitively; as a freshman, you don't know what to expect playing-wise so it's going to help us in that aspect too.

Redshirt junior forward Kenny Goins
On what he learned about himself last year...
I learned that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was, mentally and physically. There were times last year that I was like, `Screw this, I'm so fed up with this and that.' It made basketball really, really hard to play when you're out of position and you're asked to do things that you didn't even know that you could do. For me to persevere through it and hold my own as best as I could, it really showed me, personally, that you can overcome things that you didn't think you could if you just keep working at it and put your mind to it.

On conversations with Coach Izzo about being frustrated...
Coach and I had many conversations last year left and right about it. Like look I'm trying, you're asking me to do this, this, this, and this, and I'm trying to do it. It was kind of back and forth. He's a very understanding guy. He doesn't always show it out here, but off the court he's very understanding and very vocal and is open to that two-way conversation. We would have multiple conversations about how frustrated and how difficult it was for me. For him to have that belief in me and to push me to do what I needed to do for the team last year and just having him have my back really helped, too.

On how relieved Coach Izzo is that he can use Kenny as he intends to be used...
Coach and I both agree that it's a better fit. When something fits right, it acts right. Instead of forcing me into the center where I wasn't able to utilize everything that I have to offer this program. He knew that, all the coaches knew that. This year I think that we're both happy that I can show everything that I have from my rifle position as a forward.

On feelings about the front court...
Honestly, we have one of the best front courts in America right now in terms of experience and size. Every day out here we're pushing each other to get better; whether it's Nick (Ward) against Gav (Schilling) or me against Jaren (Jackson), or me against X (Xavier Tillman) sometimes. It doesn't matter because we're just looking to get better. It's just going to drive us and get us more experience when it comes to the season.

Sophomore guard Cassius Winston
On his relationship with Tum Tum Nairn...
We're brothers. It's as simple as you can put it, we're brothers. He's an amazing person and that's why it's so easy to follow him. Whatever Tum asks from us, we're going to do. No questions asked. That's the kind of respect we have for him.

On Tum Tum being a secondary coach...
Most definitely. That's our leader. When things are going rough, not even on the court, but off the court, that's who we go to. He's the first person we call.

On the hashtag Eden...
You have to ask Tum about that. It's basically the Garden of Eden. God's creation, God's creation of earth. We're on earth and this is God's creation so this is our Eden.

On getting four weeks off during the summer but being in the gym two days later shooting...
I went through the season and it wasn't what I wanted it to be. Going through the season I found out things that I needed to fix and things that I needed to be on this level and that I could be on this level. Once you know that, it'll drive you forward. All of these things that I can take control of, I can put in my own hands and I can fix, so that's what I did.

Freshman guard Brock Washington
On the opportunities he has in practice because of Izzo...
Izzo doesn't lay back for anybody. Him saying that he was a walk-on himself, he has an appreciation for all of us. He doesn't want us to think that we're different from the rest of the team, he wants us to be like everybody else and act like everybody else and compete like everybody else and be the best players that we can possibly be and make the team a lot better.

On a "welcome to college basketball" moment...
Too many. I guess my big welcome to college basketball was the first open gym I had here and Xavier (Tillman) dunked on me. That was my big welcome moment.

On his own moment...
The first practice I was pretty nervous and came out, made a couple of 3s in some of the drills and some of the live drills. It was a really good moment for me and a good confidence booster. That was kind of my welcome and made me realize I was supposed to be here and I'm really enjoying my time here.

On the toughest part of the transition from high school to college ball...
Toughest part would probably be the strength and speed of all of these college players. They spend a lot of time in the weight room. I have a lot of catching up to do but I feel like I can get there. It's encouraging to me, it's encouraging to see where I can be one day.



Senior guard Lourawls `Tum Tum' Nairn Jr.
On his leadership with the new players this season...
It's been fun for me, having two freshmen coming in. Also seeing our four freshmen from last year grow. I can never complain about being in the position I am, and my role on the team. It's been fun getting to know them even more than I did last year, just hanging out with them and learning more about them. I think this is a really special group.

On the privilege of being a basketball player at Michigan State...
It's not that we have to, it's that we get to. It's not you've got to go to practice or you've got to go weights. You get to go to practice and you get to go to weights. A lot of people don't have that same opportunity and would die to be in your position. I think if you start looking at it as you know, I get to do this, you have more appreciation for it and that's why I'm here. Everybody's not alike, and everybody has different strengths and certain strengths. My strength is appreciating every single day that I get to see. I just want the guys to know that they can do that same thing.

On playing for his teammates...
My whole deal since I've been here, because it was instilled in me as a freshman, that you send your seniors out the right way. It's emotional for me, being on the end of the spectrum now. It's Tum's senior year but I've always been playing for my teammates, playing for the guys that have been putting in the work for the program, even playing for the guys that I never even played with. Just the whole alumni base - Draymond (Green), Travis Walton, Mateen (Cleaves), Magic (Johnson) - just playing for all those guys as well, and I think that's what makes Michigan State so special.

Sophomore guard Joshua Langford
On the expectations this year...
This year, you know what you're supposed to do. Do your job. It can't get any simpler than that. We have expectations for ourselves, and everybody has expectations for us as well, but I think the biggest thing for us is to make sure that we come in and do our job every day, and I think everything else will take care of itself.

On changes he has made to his game...
I think one thing that I've really been focusing on, or honing in on, is my recognition skills, and what I mean by that is being able to decipher what I need to do in certain situations in the game and what play I need to be giving for better reads. I feel like something I wanted to get better, it may not look like it, but I wanted to get stronger. I needed to get stronger, and that's something I really focused in on this summer. As a basketball player, you want to just keep working on your whole skill set, and that's something I wanted to do as well.

On the players benefitting from his inside presence...
It's definitely easier. One of the Michigan State staples is for the guards to rebound, and that's something that we're not going to stop doing but it's definitely easier because we have more of an inside presence with the bigs we have this year. I feel like it's a great combination with the guards going and rebounding and also with the bigs we have.

On fighting for playing time...
I think it's great to be able to have practices like a game, where you go against each other in the offensive scrimmages and defensive scrimmages. It's like we're playing against a whole different team, so it's good that you have guys being able to push each other every play. You can't take a play off. It's really competitive now, and that's great for our team.

Sophomore guard/forward Miles Bridges
On what it means to be elected captain by his team...
It's really overwhelming. I came from 10th grade not even playing on Huntington Prep's team to being the captain at Michigan State, top five program. This is overwhelming for me and that's why I love my teammates.

On the pressure of expectations for this year's team...
I mean we don't pay attention to it and if we do, we embrace the pressure. That's basically the advice that the team has given us, and we try to use it to the best of our abilities.

On the closeness of the team...
Last year's team was really close, but I think this year's is closer. We go out to eat all the time, we go to the movies every week. This team, we just gel so good together and I think that's going to help us out on the court.

On individual pressure...
My main focus is just to get better every day. Like I said, I don't like to pay attention to the pressure because if I do, then I'm going to start playing bad. I just focus on winning.

On if Tom Izzo is different than previous years...
It's the same old coach. He doesn't give us the big head; he goes after us every practice. He just wants to make us better every day. That's what makes him a Hall of Fame coach. He never changes up, even if he has a good team, an average team, a bad team. That's why he has so many Final Fours.

On if Izzo is coaching them harder than last season...
Yeah, because we're healthy this year so we're able to do more in practice, which is a lot more physical drills. He's driving us harder; we have more bodies. It's good for us.

Freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr.
On what it's like to finally be practicing...
It's a little similar, not as concentrated as Money Ball obviously. You get a lot of love from people at random times of your days. Just people wanting to give their opinion or people wanting to say they're really looking forward to seeing you play. It's just been exciting.

On being ready to suit up for Michigan State...
I'm very excited. The fact that college basketball started early this year just draws more attention to us. We play in a couple weeks so I'm ready to get out there.

On knowing he'll be playing against the best teams in the country...
That was one of the reasons I came here. We don't hide from anybody and that's been proven, especially last year. We probably broke some records for hardest schedule, and Coach Izzo is doing the same thing this year. He doesn't want to hide from any competition. You can see that right off the bat when we play Duke early in November. That will be a really fun game, I know a lot of people on that team, just playing against them in AAU and it'll be fun doing it again.

On how his skills fit in...
I'm confident in my ability to do a lot of different things. Carving out something is not really what I'm meant to do. I think I'm able to just mold in whatever he needs. If it's space on the floor for a three when my teammates are penetrating, that's what I'll do. Or if it's crashing the glass or getting to the basket, that's what I need to do in that situation. I feel like because of the different things I can do on the court, I'll be able to contribute in different ways.

On his comfort level...
I get more comfortable each day as I go through it in practice. At first when I got here it was just, the speed of the game was different and I just had to adjust to that. As I'm playing more and more and getting more confident, slowing myself down and making sure I get to my spots on the floor where I want to be successful.






 

 

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