Men's Basketball Media Day
Complete coverage as the Spartans meet the media.
Oct. 18, 2011
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Coach Izzo Press Conference
Senior forward Draymond Green
Senior guard Brandon Wood
Junior center Derrick Nix
Sophomore guard Keith Appling
Sophomore center Adreian Payne
Red-shirt freshman guard Russell Byrd
Freshman guard Branden Dawson
Freshman guard Travis Trice
Coach Tom Izzo Press Conference Transcript
COACH IZZO: It is great to have you here. Give Matt (Larson) credit, he knew Freddy (Fred Heumann) would not be here if we had it during the baseball thing because baseball's so important. To be honest with you, I think it was important to the whole state, so I'm glad he made the change. I hope you appreciate what he did, because it was all for you, not for me.
We're opening practice now, so it makes it a little more difficult. It will be a different looking team than you've seen in the past seasons, there is no question about it, with most of our guys being new.
When you look at what we've got right now, we've got two guys that have played more than 20 minutes a game, and that is DayDay (Draymond Green) and, of course, Keith Appling, and he played most of his late in the season. So it is a different looking team, but some of that is kind of exciting too.
We have some guys that were around that didn't play like Russell Byrd, and if he comes back, like he's coming back now, he's going to be a great addition. Alex Gauna is going to be a very good addition. But there are a lot of unknowns. No question about it.
I think seven players on our roster haven't played a minute for us, and that's different than most years. But in saying all of that, first let me say we're still saddened by the departure of Delvon (Roe). But from a standpoint of Delvon, I talked to him last night, he'll be getting another surgery in December on his leg.
When you look at the whole thing, that now Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are going to get work every day where maybe they wouldn't because we were going to play Delvon, even though we knew he wasn't going to be able to give us more than 20 minutes a game. He's an experienced guy, our best defender in there.
And that definitely hurt a little bit, but at the same time, trying to look at it as the glass half full with Nix and Payne getting a lot more reps. I've already seen in a week them grow a lot. So somehow we'll make a negative a positive.
I think what you're going to really enjoy about this team is it's a team you want to support. Like the 2007, whatever the (Drew) Neitzel year was when we seemed to have lost a lot of people, and we lost (Shannon) Brown and (Maurice) Ager and (Paul) Davis and things like that, and we bounced back. It was kind of a fun team to watch.
This is going to be a fun team to watch. Blending our experience, or lack there of, with our in between guys, with our rookie guys. I think the chemistry and camaraderie is going to be a lot better than it's been.
I think I'll address it one time and only one time, since everybody makes a big deal or I made a big deal out of last year's disappointment. Remember, there are more than one or two reasons why. Those injuries of last year, when you look at a guy like Byrd right now, he's practiced a little bit. Just in his practices he's only going halfway, but he definitely would have helped us a lot last year.
Every time this team hits the court, I think you're going to see a different passion and intensity. Number one, because I think they're a closer knit team. But number two, for the most part they're going to be an injury free team.
With all the parity in college basketball, I don't think there is any question intangibles do play a major factor. I've been studying the Lions. I've been studying the Tigers when many in this room drilled them for half the year, yet how they came on.
I've been studying the Red Sox and what happened to that locker room. Hopefully beer and chicken is out of our locker room this year. We don't plan on having any of that in there.
But if you look at those things, it's easy to see why chemistry is so important on a team, and why locker rooms are so important. There will be a learning curve. You know, of all the years to start out with Carolina and Duke, if I had to look at my 17 years, this would rank in the bottom couple that I'd want to do that with.
But the other side of the coin is there's been so much talk on the football side of things with teams all over, not just Big Ten teams, but teams all over on how do we really know what this team is? Do we really know what that team is? Who did they play? What have they played? There will be no problem with that here.
You'll know what we are, and who we are and where we are. But on a more positive note than you knowing, we're going to know and we're going to know what our strengths and weaknesses are that we have to work on.
But there will be a learning curve. The fact that the women got two more weeks of practice than the men did this year, that is another factor that hurts us. We'd like to have a little more time. But in scheduling those two teams, still Mark Hollis deserves all the credit, and all the blame for it. But he definitely deserves the credit for making this game on the aircraft carrier come to fruition. It was not easy.
I learned that as I told some of you when I went out to New York for the press conference, there were a lot more military things, a lot more headaches than you can imagine. And Mark and his crew did an incredible job.
Once during the year we agreed to that, we were offered this opportunity to play in this Tournament of Champions, which I thought for our program, our university, our alums, it was too good to pass up.
At the same time, that time of year we thought we'd have Korie Lucious back and Delvon Roe back. So that creates some problems for us early, but it also creates an exciting off season on two things you can look forward to maybe aim towards.
I don't think - I think probably Matt said it best. It's been since 1976 that he ever started out with two ranked teams like that in college basketball or in our basketball. So I think that's a great tribute to where our program is.
Other non conference challenges, the problem is we get Florida State who, those of you who know anything about them, very giant, very athletic. Gonzaga out there. I called Judd a couple weeks ago, and he said you're playing Gonzaga out here? He said it 10 times. He said I thought you told them not to play in their new arena. He said I thought I told you don't play there. Well, where in the hell am I supposed to play?
They haven't lost many games there. He wanted me to play in the downtown arena. But if we're going to go, let's go. So we're going to be out there. We're going to be on the road for five non conference games, which is a lot in college basketball in this day and age. Yet I think it's going to give us a schedule that will prepare us for the Big Ten.
Talk about - Matt put some notes together that I'm sure he gave you, that we have to play 15 opponents that played in the postseason; 11 opponents who played in the NCAA Tournament. Then you have to multiply that by the number of Big Ten teams that will play twice and maybe even that have been in the NIT.
So I think we figured out that 21 of the 31 opponents we'll face this year were in tournament play last year. That is as good as it gets. That's kind of what we've done all along.
And I bitched and moaned that I was going to change some of that, and I did. I think I made it harder. I'm not sure that's proper for this team or fair for this team. But as Andre Hudson said over at our reunion that's what we do here, so what's what we do.
Preseason expectations. When you have what's supposed to be considered a somewhat down year going in and you're still, some people talk 20 or 30. When you're still getting your Midnight Madness covered by ESPN, I think it talks a little bit about where our program's at, and that excites me as much as anything we're doing.
I still look back. It seems hard to believe on some of the things that we've accomplished. But I said that consistency has been one, and the number of Elite Eights and Sweet 16s that we've had in the last 14 years, I think, stays with what we're talking about with that consistency.
I'm going to go through the players real quick so you have more time for questions. There's no question that we all know who our leader is. It's Draymond Green. He's put himself in a position by who he is and what he is.
What he's meant to this program I think was illustrated last week when he grabbed the team and told them that the one thing we've got to do is a better job recruiting. You're talking about a guy that won't be here for one of the recruits coming in. That is Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves-ish. That I really appreciate.
He's cut a little bit more weight. Not much, but he's changed his body fat a lot. He has probably worked harder on his shooting than anybody we've had this year other than Austin Thornton and has now become a very good 3 point shooter.
He played on the USA team which was great for him. He's got a chance to become a 1,000-point scorer and a 1,000-rebounder. There's only been three in the history of our school. So that alone speaks volumes for him. The leadership, I think, will be the most important thing he does.
He'll be playing in a lot of different positions. We'll be moving him around, or I should say maybe not different positions, but he'll have different opportunities. We'll have him handle the ball. He'll be a point forward sometimes, He'll be a shooter sometimes. He'll be a banger sometimes. We'll move him all over.
Austin Thornton, what we need out of him first is leadership. We talked about it last year. We thought it was a weakness of our team, and so he did a great job of that. He's played in two Final Fours as DayDay (Draymond Green) has, which I think there is some experience.
What he didn't do as well last year is shoot the ball, and he is a good shooter. That is his strength. He too put countless hours in this summer. I'd say those two guys spent more time in the gym than anybody else on my team, other than (Derrick) Nix, and that, I think should bode well for us.
And Brandon Wood, a guy that has a chance to start coming in. I've said it a million times and I think he's said it, appreciative that Valpo handled it like they did. I'm not overly fond of the rule, but it was, get him if I could or play against him. He was leaving there one way or another, not for negative reasons, but just to fulfill what he thought were his dreams and goals.
He's a better athlete that I thought. He's a little stronger than I thought. It's nice to have a guy with experience that's graduated and has a maturity level that he has. If you spend some time with the guy, you're going to love him. He is very mature.
In the two seasons at Valpo he scored over a 1,000 points, 1,100 points. But it's going to take an adjustment to get the Big Ten ball. He's played against Big Ten, ACC teams, but it's going to take an adjustment to do it on a night in, night out basis.
Derrick Nix, all I can tell you is where we were last year, we're miles ahead. And at this time last year, we were in pretty good shape. He was better with his body, which causes 80% of his pluses or minuses.
When you see him today, and we're going to weigh him in front of you, so everybody knows there are no secrets here. No, Freddy, we're not weighing you in front of him, we're weighing Nix in front of them. When we do that, he had some goals we set, and I'll be honest I'm going to go out on a limb here that this kid has matured as much as I talked to Morris Peterson this weekend and told him to talk to Nix, because I see a maturation process of the same magnitude.
He has done a pretty good job in the classroom. He's maintained his weight at a weight we wanted him to be at for just about three fourths of the summer, and now the first two months of the regular season. I think he's improved his shooting. He's improved his free throw shooting a lot. His ability to get up and down the court has quad zippled from what it was. I know that's not a word. It is in the U.P. So the hell with you guys (laughter).
So we've really been it's been fun to have him around. Like I said, I told you guys honestly what I thought when he didn't, and I tell you honestly that this kid has made incredible strides. I think now if he can be consistent, he's going to have a great year.
Keith Appling, there is no question last half of the year he came on, played some of his best basketball. At the end we need him to score points. He's going to play the point. He's going to play the two some, but he's going to play point. So even though he has experience, he too is at a new position. Yet it's not that far off, because he played a lot there in high school.
Phenomenal athlete, he's not been able to gain weight. That was the only negative. We asked him to gain some weight, but he hasn't been able to do that. But he has gained strength, and a lot of strength. I think he's one of the best athletes I've had since Shannon Brown type guy.
He's really done a great job working on his ball handling. He's spent more time watching film and decision making. I think that's going to be the key.
He played on the USA Basketball team, which was a good experience for him. Played very well at times. Only averaging 22 minutes a game, though, he's going to have to step up. I'll be surprised if he isn't the best defensive player in this league. He's done a lot defensively last year, and he's been dynamite this year. That is one of his goals is to win that award.
Adreian Payne, a lot like Nix, taking a big step emotionally, a big step mentally. A big step as far as he's gained 15, 20 pounds. That was important. But I think he's gained more mentally and more with his toughness. He's a lot more physical.
He and Nix have become like real brothers now where they work with each other every day. They beat on each other in different ways. Nix is strength and size, Payne's athleticism. He shoots the ball very well. He's grasping concepts of what we're doing a lot better. He's just better off.
The injury last year set him back a lot, and then trying to play catch up in the second half of the year is hard. So I think he too is poised for a breakout season.
Russell Byrd is still the only question mark. I say that because we haven't seen him other than four or five days. The four or five days I've loved what I've seen. I thought he could shoot the ball, and he can still shoot the ball even though he's had so much time off.
What he's done in the off season, is he's gotten stronger, bigger, his upper body strength is better than I thought. He moves his feet better, and he is 6'7". So getting him back on that wing will really help our perimeter play.
Being a better athlete than I thought, and having him and a guy like Branden Dawson out there, if he's ready to go, we're going to be well set at that position.
Alex Gauna, he gives us an A.J. Granger-type player as I said last year. He's gotten a little stronger. He's a good pick and pop guy. There's one thing he's got to work on is getting his tail back in the post. He's a physical guy that's got to play physical.
The year of experience as a redshirt, part of that year he was injured, as we all know, but part of that year, especially the second half, he got to do a lot of things, and I think he'll be a lot better player because of it. But he still has no game experience which is going to take place.
The three freshmen. Branden Dawson I said would be one of the best rebounders I've seen here in a long time, best offensive rebounders. He's not disappointed me at all.
What he has been better than I thought he would be is picking up things. Little better defensively than I thought he would be, and a little better at shooting the ball than I thought from range. Not what I would consider a 3 point shooter yet, but the best comparison is like a Raymar Morgan. He does a few things a little better than Raymar, not quite as good defensively as Raymar, but similar body. Maybe even better hops. So he is another guy that should be battling for a starting position.
Brandan Kearney, the Steve Smith type guy I said we had when I recruited him. I was concerned a little bit when he came about his strength. His strength is still an issue, but his versatility has been better than I thought, and his shooting has been better than I thought. What that will translate to in game situations, I don't know yet.
But he's got good length. He handles the ball well with both hands, and he shoots the ball better than I thought. Physically, got to mature, and he's got to do it in a short period of time. But I think he knows that, understands it, and I'm very pleased by where he's at compared to where I thought he might be at.
Travis Trice, as I said before, he's a son of a coach. That was a Heathcote rule, try to get coaches' kids because he has a good understanding of the game. He's been hampered a little bit. Came down on his back in a scrimmage right before the regular practices start. Nothing serious, but just came down real good on it, so he's been slowed a little bit because of that.
But a gym rat, understands the game, works on it. He's going to be a great back up point guard. He'll be able to help Appling, we can move Keith to the two some, and little better than athlete than I thought. Even though, like Appling, he's got to continue to put on weight.
We have one other guy now on scholarship, Anthony Ianni. He's 6'9". He's got to be our banger. He's got to give us a couple minutes. When we get in foul trouble, he's got to be a great practice player and kind of simulate what the other teams are doing.
But he too is I think everybody's gotten in better shape. I guess Mike (Vorkapich) deserves the credit for that because they had great summers. Whether that translates into anything, as I say, will soon be found.
We have two other walk ons, Dan Chapman and Keenan Wetzel. Chapman was here last year, Wetzel would have probably gone to a low Division I school and has come here to walk on, and we're pleased to have him.
So we're young we're not real deep. I think we have some talented players at key positions and it will just be a matter of us coming together. So I'll open it up for hopefully a ton of questions that I can answer honestly.
Q. (Inaudible - on the adversity of the 2010-11 season)
COACH IZZO: Well, I guess I should elaborate on the first part of the question because the problem I have is I tell it like it is too often, and we all know that we went through some trying times with a couple of guys and things weren't right.
But you just hit the nail on the head. Before we went through those, we did not play one game 5-on-5 during the summer last year, not one time. We had six guys out with major surgeries, which means going under the knife.
It was not just Kalin (Lucas), and it was not just (Adreian) Payne, and it was not just (Russell) Byrd, and it was not just Delvon (Roe). I mean, we had Austin Thornton out eight weeks, we had (Durrell) Summers out.
That coupled with the way we started the season, meaning we were on the road so much and so many distant places, Maui, Duke, Syracuse, New York, where we got back late, they were all good excuses. But at the time I look back and that hurt us a lot. That hurt us a lot because we didn't have a summer and we didn't get the practice like we needed to or should have.
To compound that with some guys that couldn't do the things that you need to do to be a top-rate program, and the fact that I probably didn't do as good a job as I needed to do, we had what I would call a mediocre season for Michigan State.
This summer, Byrd did not get to do much. Other than him, DayDay had a great summer. (Austin) Thornton had a great summer, (Derrick) Nix, unbelievable, Payne, unbelievable summer. All three freshmen had good summers. The only one was Byrd that didn't, so that put us miles ahead to start with.
I think if you ask our players, I think you'll see the camaraderie is better, but one of the reasons is they did a lot of things together. They lifted together, they played together, they shot together because we were healthier.
The only guys that got close to anybody last year was (athletic trainer Tom) Mackowiak. He put in so much work, he had to retire. That's hitting the nail on the head. We just did not have a summer, if you believe any of the theories that players are made in the summer and teams yeah, players in the summer, teams in the winter we didn't get to get better in the summer, and we didn't get much chemistry in the summer.
So even though some of it was our fault, as I stated later on, and you saw by suspensions and that. Some of it was nobody's fault. This year seems to be a lot better so far.
Q. Can you talk about why you're not fond of the rule that helped you get (Brandon) Wood, and how much he helps you, obviously, short term without (Korie) Lucious, without Kalin (Lucas)?
COACH IZZO: That's the hard part when you lose a guy during the year. When you lose a (Korie) Lucious in January, end of January, and you lose Delvon (Roe) now, it's not like you can go and get another player. Most of your recruiting is done and you could have gone and picked up somebody, but that screws up the classes for the next couple years.
We couldn't go out and get somebody. The uniqueness of this is he's a one year guy. That is a plus and a minus, of course. I'm not fond of the rule because we didn't do it. I mean, I called Homer (Drew) the minute I got a letter. I'm sure other people do it that way.
But I think if people have big success like the quarterback at Wisconsin or something, are we going to get to the point where we're recruiting kids off other people's campuses, and I don't think that would be fair, especially bigger schools picking on smaller schools. So I don't think that would be fair.
Now this had no glitches to it. Homer and I were on the same page from day one. I understood why, he understood why, it was simple and easy. But I worry about that down the road, and I worry about that I've argued that on the NCAA board or on the NABC board for a couple of years.
The reasoning for it is supposedly in case a kid wants to work on his masters and they don't have that curriculum at that school, but I'm not sure it's healthy for college football or basketball. That would be my theory on it. If somebody proves me wrong, I'd be glad to listen.
So I did, after he visited, I called Homer. We got on a three way. I talked about you should stay if you want to stay, but if you're leaving, there are probably two schools in our conference and one major school outside of it that were recruiting him. So it was either play against him or play with him.
But I don't agree totally with the rule, but it wasn't like I just took advantage of it. The rule is there to be used.
Q. Kind of a two parter here. Because of the issues and distractions that you had last year, does it make you more anxious this year? The second part of that is did you sit down (Draymond) Green or your seniors with the team and say we're not going to have chemistry extras this year, figure it out?
COACH IZZO: Yes to both. I feel better than I've felt in three years. I'm excited to get going. There is no doubt I was anxious to do it. But I spent a lot of time blaming myself and wondering. I spent some time saying, God, we still won 19 games. I mean, if I would have told you (Chris) Allen and (Korie) Lucious weren't going to be with us, would we be picked that high in the first place?
So I went through that whole thing, and I am really excited to get going; probably more so than I've been just because of that a little bit.
But as far as DayDay (Draymond Green) and Austin (Thornton), you know, my president reminded me of something. You don't make changes, you don't make rules. You don't do things because of things that happened once in a while. Sometimes we can get caught up and want to change everything because of an incident here or an injury there, because a guy gets injured, does that mean we're not going to have a preseason at all?
We have changed our summer workouts because remember we had all of those sports hernias for a while and stress fractures, and you realize that you can change a lot of things. But some of those things are just happening because they happen out of our control.
I think DayDay understands. I sent him a text last week, and I said in that text that something he had done that day was Magic and Mateen-ish.
He sent me a text back. I hate this texting stuff, but once in a while when it's late, I do it. Oh, yeah, once in a while. But what he sent back, that meant more to him than anything I said to him all year.
I think what we had was some people that just did not appreciate, maybe, the past which is a programmed thing. To be important, and winning be important you've got to have the Magics and Smiths and Cleaves and Richardsons and Skiles all the way back.
It's that way in football, it's that way in basketball. Because that gives you more of a feel that you're part of the university and part of the team. There is nobody.
Travis Walton is a guy that came close. And yet DayDay has even more basketball skills, and basketball ability. I feel very comfortable where our leadership is. And I feel that our players understand, because they saw, as you say, what distractions can do on the other side of it.
Q. I'm sure the summer was vital for (Keith) Appling. But so much of point guard play is structured and played within your system. Is it harder on a point guard to develop over the summertime, and what are you seeing so far?
COACH IZZO: I think it is. That's what I said. That's why I think he's got the second most experience. In football we changed some defensive linemen to offensive linemen, and they talk about it's an adjustment.
It is an adjustment for Keith (Appling). We did play him at some point at practice last year, maybe one game a little bit or two. But, yeah, it's an adjustment. It's going to be an adjustment for him. He's going to do it the entire time.
We started December 15, two hours a week. That's where he's been all the time. We can adjust him back to the two some, which we will. But we're playing him at the point the entire time.
I really like what he's done. I like where he's at, and I think he likes it. So the combination is pretty good.
Q. You mentioned the youth and growing pains, but with that, you don't have as many guys that have been to two Final Fours and won two Big Ten championships. Do you think there will be extra motivation, and guys will be hungrier with that?
COACH IZZO: That is another good point. I don't think there is any question if I had to take one thing from myself that I had to really reassess. It's easy to think players get fat and sassy, did coaches, did people around? Did we forget all the little things that maybe make a difference so I didn't think we did.
I always have trouble trying to assess if we did. I look at the injuries, the schedule, the distractions. Trying to figure out that has been hard, but there is definitely more motivation when you've disappointed yourself.
It was just an incredible time to have 80 guys back last week or whatever we had, of former players. Some that made it big, some that are still playing in the league, some that were nobody's, but players that observed. But all of them who followed our program for the last 20 something years.
When you have them back, like Gregory Kelser said, you know, it is going to be fun because there have not been very many times that we've not been picked in the top 20 or 25 in the last 13, 14 years. The one time we weren't, we got to a Sweet 16.
So I'm going to use that as motivation. Our league's funny this year, which we'll talk about before we're done here too.
Q. You mentioned last year, you changed a lot of things and how you did things last year. Do you see that you're going to go back to the old way on things somewhere does Tom Izzo think he can change or stay the same with previous changes?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I think I was trying to find out I spent a lot of nights kind of looking in a mirror, and I think I did. I think I eased up a little bit. Only because it's hard to push a Kalin Lucas every day when I don't even know if he should be practicing.
It was hard with Delvon (Roe) every day. Every day I'd come to practice and get a thumbs up or thumbs down from the trainer. He's going to go, he's not going to go. He's going to go half. He's going to go full. There were just so many thing that's go through your mind. Do you want to save him? Do you not want to save him?
Even the game he got hurt against Penn State, if I was the average guy, we're up 15, why is he in there in the last three minutes of the game? Well, he was just starting to play better. He said I'm just getting my confidence. And I'm saying let him get some confidence. The poor guy has had struggles for three and a half years.
I don't think I would have done that either way. That was him and me, and I listened and I agreed. I think the biggest thing from my standpoint is when you're I don't know if I'm a Harbaugh and Schwartz, but when you're a more animated coach, you leave yourself open for more, I guess, criticism. Last year I just didn't think our players needed any. I thought we had enough adversity already.
I think I struggled with that to the point where I wasn't me. I got to be me, too. Yet this year I feel like practices have been good. They've been calmer. Because I think, as I said to the guys that gathered at my house Saturday night, I still believe that the best teams are player coached teams. Right now I have a player that I feel comfortable with in DayDay. And so him and I and Austin (Thornton) are having more meetings to get things done.
I'd be kidding you if I didn't say I felt the best I've felt in a long time as far as raring to go and ready to go.
Q. Because of the chemistry problems you alluded to last year, and maybe some of the other problems, has it made you consider or re-adjust how you're approaching recruiting?
COACH IZZO: No, no, no. No, not at all. I mean, you know things happen. They happen everywhere. You know, I talked to Roy Williams about it. Two years ago, look at what they went through. So it's just part of the way it is.
It's like I was on a conference call today and they're talking about what they're going to do with the APR, how they're going to stop kids from transferring. It's not going to happen. Kids are going to transfer because everybody wants some everywhere.
He had two 6'11" guys leave at Carolina. It's just the nature of the beast now. Kids want to play. If they don't play, they're going to look to play somewhere else.
You're always going to try to get the best quality kid you can get. But there was nothing wrong with what we got. Maybe what was wrong is maybe we handled success not the right way. Those two Final Fours for a bunch of young guys, maybe we didn't handle it the right way. That's what I'll reassess. I'm not reassessing who I recruited for the most part. I wouldn't have changed any of that.
Q. You know that Draymond (Green) is the leader of this team. But how much does it make it harder for him or affect him the fact that Delvon (Roe) wasn't around and that kind of approach to the game that everyone admired?
COACH IZZO: I think it hurt DayDay (Draymond Green), it was a tearful day for him, too, as it was for Delvon (Roe), but it was for DayDay. And he took that hard. But I think everybody knew Delvon's days were numbered as far as what he could give us on a day in, day out basis.
It was Delvon's dad that questioned why he was starting the year before, because he knew and everybody knew that I shouldn't say everybody but those of us that had seen him play in high school and realized he wasn't the player that we recruited. But you get into where it's going to bother DayDay, is Delvon's heart and Delvon's ability to play through pain, and Delvon's experience that he's been in all those wars with DayDay. They could play off each other.
But I think DayDay's enjoyed the fact that both (Derrick) Nix and (Adreian) Payne have just you talk to them and figure it out. There is just a different aura and attitude among those two. I think DayDay's enjoyed that. He appreciated it. If you ask Draymond what he appreciated most his freshman year, I'd be surprised if he didn't tell you the way (Goran) Suton took him under his wing.
Suton and him almost got in a fight the third day of practice, and the way Suton took him under his wing, DayDay remembered that, and he's looking forward to taking a few guys under his wing right now. He's done an incredible job of doing that.
Q. Since you brought it up, and you know Jim Harbaugh a little bit. What did you make of Sunday and has a coach ever shook your hand too hard?
COACH IZZO: As always I just didn't know what words were being said. But being in this state right now, I've known Jim for a while somewhat, Jim Harbaugh, but I think Jim Schwartz has done an incredible job, incredible, as did Jim Leyland. I'm a big fan of both of those guys as far as what they did with their teams.
When you talk about some of the things you talked about, you look at what Leyland did with putting them down, bringing them back, where he put them, how he did it.
I thought the most incredible thing I've heard this year that keeps me laughing, there are not a lot of things that keep you laughing when you're in this job, I was listening to one of those informational talk shows as I was riding into work. I was riding in day one or two, and they said, you know, this lady came on and complained that how could he not send somebody home on a hit when there is such an inept hitting team at this point.
And I'll be damned if the next game they sent somebody home who got called out at the plate. The next day, how could they possibly send that guy home? And I felt good about myself. I said now you're a politician. You're going to please 51% of the people, at best, and that's the way it is.
In this case I don't know what was said between the lines. But like I said, I think Jim Schwartz, more than anything, I went down there for a couple of preseason practices, I love his approach. I think both guys are volatile in their own respect.
I think that's the nature of the game and what happens sometimes. If I would have seen it one more time on TV, if they had come to blows or something, I would have said this is great. But that's what, a word or two yelling at a guy or something, my God, what have we come to when that's news? It's almost comical.
Q. Speaking of (Delvon) Roe you touched on him earlier. How do you feel about your depth with the bigs right now? Do you expect (Derrick) Nix and (Adreian) Payne to handle that low down there?
COACH IZZO: If there is a plus to the minuses, last year we tried to experiment with DayDay at the three, just because we were light in certain areas and we just thought that would be the way to look at it. I think that hurt DayDay a little bit. We moved him around. Last year I don't think he was ready for it. This year we'll move him around in a different way.
But he is pretty solidified where he can be an Alan Anderson four man now, which means he can do a lot of different things. Like I said, right now if you took a spot up shooter, he shot the ball as well as anybody we've got right now in the spot up.
So we don't have great depth. But we've been fortunate here over the years. If you look at Ohio State last year they're playing six guys. Duke's playing six or seven every year. It's just a little bit different way you've got to play, maybe. But I can't complain about something that's been a strength of ours.
But we've been fortunate over the years to have enough depth most years to really never worry about it. We have quality depth at each position. We just don't have quality experience.
When I say quality depth, I mean good enough players two deep at each position; we just don't have the experience. So I think it's a little more exciting. They're going to grow and get better.
If you look at our offensive line in football, that thing's getting better and better, getting some experience, getting confidence. I'm not sure I did my team fear to get some confidence in those first two games, but they're going to know where they're at, I can promise you that.
Q. When you look at (Keith) Appling at the point, how much of him at the point will be based on how (Travis) Trice is doing. And if you had your way, what would the distribution be for Appling at the 1 and 2?
COACH IZZO: I'm just trying to learn my team a little bit. I'm trying to learn how good (Brandon) Wood can be. And if he plays the two and (Keith) Appling plays the point, and B.J. (Branden Dawson) plays the three. So I'm trying to figure out how good is Wood, how good is (Travis) Trice, and how good is Dawson? And that makes a difference.
The nice thing is I have the luxury in knowing I can play Appling at the two some if Trice comes along faster.
A couple of those guys will play a lot of minutes no matter where I play them at. So Trice is a kid that I think has a lot to give but not the highest ranked kid coming in here.
As we get going here, he had a rough couple of days his first couple of days. He's had a great three or four days lately, but he's been a little bit hurt. Nothing where I'm worried about it being sustained, but he's been a little bit nicked up the last couple of days.
Q. The Big Ten race, depth, strength of the Big Ten this year, how do you think it matches up compared to previous years?
COACH IZZO: I don't think we have the strength as far as the highest ranked teams. But as far as depth, I think it might be the best it's been in a lot of years. Not necessarily top, top depth, but I think quality depth.
If you look at Ohio State, they should be most people's preseason pick, but they lost some people too. (David) Lighty, one of those glue guys. They lost a heck of a guy in Lighty, and (Jon) Diebler was a great guy to play off of that monster inside, because if you cheated an inch, he's going to make shots.
So they lost some, but they've got the most quality team coming back. Then you look at every team has lost something except Michigan. Though they lost a point guard now, Minnesota's got a couple of young guards, but they've got a lot back in their scoring ability.
I think Illinois still has a chance to be very good even though they lost a lot, they had a lot of young kids playing at the end.
Northwestern's got experience, I think. I just think the depth of the Big Ten. Right now you look at Penn State and say they lost four or five starters and their coach, but he will be better. He's been there over some time now. Maybe they would have been next in line.
Nobody knows as much about Nebraska, but I know he is a very, very, very good coach, and a very, very, very good defensive coach. That will be a tough place to play at.
So I think when you start picking who is 2 through 9, I think you're going to have a lot of trouble. There are going to be a lot of juggling acts in there.
Wisconsin should be a team that's pretty good. But they lost those two big kids. Still, those guys made that offense go better because they could pop out and shoot the ball. So I think the league is going to be very balanced would be the right word.
Q. I know you talked a little bit about (Travis) Trice and the impact that you expect from him. But what is the realistic expectation of the incoming freshman class?
COACH IZZO: I'll be surprised if they aren't all playing. I'd be surprised if at least one of them doesn't start. I'll be surprised if (Brandan) Kearney doesn't continue to make progress, because he's done everything we've asked him to do.
When you look at it that way, how many minutes? I don't know how many minutes they're going to play, but it's not going to be five or six. For sure they're going to be in the playing group. Like I said, one or two of them could end up starting.
Somebody asked me to pick a starting lineup right now, I'd have trouble doing that. I think I could give you my one week assessment on who is there right now. Right now I think we're like six starters. I think we've got (Keith) Appling and (Brandon) Wood, and (Branden) Dawson and Draymond (Green), and (Adreian) Payne and (Derrick) Nix. So I think we've got six guys in there now that could change or progress as we go.
But when you look at that group talent wise, it's a pretty talented group. Experience wise, it's not a very experienced group. That's what we're going to have to see if we can do in the next couple weeks.
Q. Do you think you guys have enough to shoot for that Big Ten championship? Is that still a goal?
COACH IZZO: I do. I do, and I don't say that I think most of the time I'm pretty realistic. Not all, but most of the time. I think we are because I think everybody's got some holes.
Like I said, you look at even Ohio State who I think on paper is the best team in the league, and (Jared) Sullinger could be the best player in the league. You lose the glue guy and you lose arguably one of the best pure shooters in college basketball.
They weren't extremely deep, so everybody's got some adjustments to make who adjusts the fastest, I think are the fastest. The goals haven't changed any as far as being unrealistic last year we're hoping we're playing for a Final Four.
This year you're always hoping to play for a Final Four, but we have so much work to do before we can start thinking that. It's we're kind of back to let's improve this week, next week the week after, and then keep reassessing our goals as we go.
But a Big Ten championship when you're here has been a goal every year, and most years in the last 14 we're still in it towards the end. I think there's been like three that we haven't been into that last week or that last two or three games with a chance to do it. So we're going to do that.
What is my biggest worry? How we handle those first couple games is my biggest worry, because I don't know what young guys will do. I don't know what new guys will do. I don't know either way. If you won the game, I don't know how we'd handle it. If you lost the game, I don't know how we'd handle it.
I don't want to down play that either because what an opportunity to play in arguably two venues that every kid dreams, every kid dreams of playing in Madison Square Garden. If you talked to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James or Magic Johnson or Steve Smith, no matter which pro you talk to, Madison Square Garden is one of their favorite places to play. We've played there kind of on a regular basis.
Then when you get a chance to play at a venue nobody dreamed about playing in other than (athletics director Mark) Hollis, exciting, neat. I wish where you could have been at the press conference, which you couldn't have been, but out there because you would have gotten a fever for what it's really going to be like with those military guys there. Then getting there and knowing we're playing for the veterans and all of that just makes it a happening of all happenings.
So I do appreciate you guys adjusting your time from last week. I do hope, as I said, give Matt credit because he tried to change it to accommodate you guys. I thank you for the great turnout.
We're not going to disappoint you. We're going to be a better team in a lot of ways this year. We'll see how that turns in and out wins and losses. Spend a little time with our guys. Have some fun with them, and I'll see you in there.
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