Michigan State Holds Men's Basketball Media Day
Coach Izzo and players talk about expectations for 2017-18 season.
East Lansing, Mich. - Lofty expectations can result in a lot of attention and that was evident on Wednesday afternoon at the Breslin Center as the Michigan State University men's basketball team held its annual Media Day, welcoming a large group of media and photographers as the 2017-18 draws closer.
After a welcome luncheon, MSU head coach Tom Izzo held a press conference, which was followed by interviews and photos with the players.
"It's a team of a lot of good players," Izzo said during his press conference. "We enter the season and we understand there are lofty expectations. There are many goals that we have, some goals that our fans have, some expectations that a lot of people have.
"It's been a team that's been driven all summer and fall. It started back in April when Miles made his big announcement. I think it just kind of -- I don't know, he's loved by these guys so much it helped flourish an incredible spring, summer and fall. There's no goals that are any loftier that you're going to put on us that we haven't put on ourselves. Handling expectations or success is always a key. Do you handle it the right way? Do you get big-headed? Do you think you've arrived? Do you believe your own press clipping?"
Izzo brought up the words of his mentor while talking of those expectations. "Well, as Jud Heathcote, my boss, always said, `You guys got a job to do and I got a job to do,'" he said. "Hopefully we're both going to do it well this year."
MSU's players were available on the court of the Breslin Center for nearly an hour after the press conference with Izzo. A major topic of conversation were the expectations for this season, with the Spartans ranked among the top-five teams in the country in many national polls and reaching as high as No. 1.
"I mean we don't pay attention to it and if we do, we embrace the pressure," sophomore forward Miles Bridges said. "That's basically the advice that the team has given us, and we try to use it to the best of our abilities."
"This year, you know what you're supposed to do," sophomore guard Joshua Langford said. "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."
Senior guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr., the team's most experienced player with 102 games played and 66 starts, is one of the team's captains for the third-straight year, joined by Bridges, who was selected a captain by his teammates.
"It's been fun for me, having two freshmen (Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman) coming in," Nairn explained. "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."
Junior guard Matt McQuaid talked about the team and its closeness. "The team chemistry this year, I feel like it is as close as I've ever been with a team," he said. "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."
Nairn Jr., who Izzo has called one of the best leaders of his 23-year coaching career, said that he was taught about the idea of playing for his teammates by the guys that came before him. It's that opportunity to serve as a leader for the Spartans that he has truly embraced.
"It's not that we have to, it's that we get to," Nairn Jr. said. "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.
Through it all, Izzo said that he has told his team that they can be aware of the expectations, and they can embrace them, but that there is a long way to go before they reach them.
"I much more like the pressure because that's better for the program, it's better for the players," Izzo said. "It means that we're legitimate contenders for something. I mean, we've got a lot of work to do. We needed to get better defensively last year. Moving people around in positions, we've got more depth. I'm going to have to do a better job coaching them.
"I told them that, You better embrace it. Not all the time do you get it. Really if you can't handle it, you shouldn't have come here. I mean, we've proven over the years now enough times that we're a quality team, we've been ranked in the top 10 a lot more than we haven't in the last 15 years. Hopefully that's why you came. You came for that."