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Tom Izzo Weekly Press Conference Coverage

Oct. 31, 2017

East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo met with the media on Tuesday inside the Izzo Family Media Center at the Spartan Stadium North End Zone Complex to review the team's first two exhibitions and talk about the progress of the Spartans.

Michigan State will play its final exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 3, hosting Hillsdale College at the Breslin Center. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. The game will air on BTNPlus and can be heard on the Spartan Sports Network.

The following is a complete transcript from Tuesday's press conference.

Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo

Opening statement...
It's interesting that we're in the month of October still and we've already played two games, exhibition or not, that's not the norm. Last week was kind of a crazy week. It seems like I spent more time talking about getting ready for that game and tickets and all the things you have to do. Not sure I put enough into the other things.

This is a week where we really need to get better now. We saw us against a Division II team. We could penetrate on a very good team. This team - we played against a very physical, big team. Big guards, even. So we've kind of looked at some things that we thought were strengths and weaknesses. We didn't think our post guys played well enough at times, as far as we let the ball get in there too much. We felt our first game, our dribble penetration was awful. Second game we shortened some of that up and did a better job on our ball screens. Much, much better job on transition defense from the first game to the second game. Much better job of getting Josh (Langford) and Miles (Bridges) to the boards. So you know, we're trying to look at those difference pieces of the puzzle; did a better job of executing zone offense the second game than the first, and yet I think the second game, the team was a pretty solid, good team in Georgia.

So this week is about, you know, off yesterday, spend a couple days now getting ready for Hillsdale. Two days getting ready for us, and then the last day getting ready for Hillsdale and that's kind of the way we are going to approach it. So I guess just questions.

On getting the ball in the paint instead of settling for 3s...
You figure a third of your shots might be 3s, probably somewhere in that area, but I don't think the ball has gone inside in the past. Some of it is Nick (Ward) has got to post up better. Some of it we've got to do a better job. We are trying to rotate a lot of guys in right now and there's no real feel for one another yet. I think we're doing that on purpose. I think that'll do a little bit better job on that. We don't have half our offense in right now to be honest with you. We felt like last year we were an average defensive team. We knew we were going to maybe put together a little different starting lineup that was not going to be our best defensive starting lineup. So we put in a little more work on the defense than normal, and this week now we'll put in a lot more of our offensive stuff. I think getting the ball inside - and Nick's got to score in there, last year he could score but remember this: it won't be as easy from the score as it was last year, because everybody knows what he does. We're going to get more double-teams like we got a little bit the other day, where we get more people playing him to certain sides. He's going to have to adjust a little bit to that, but I think he will. The good news is, if we get it in there, with a Jaren (Jackson Jr.) or a Ben (Carter) or Gavin (Schilling), we've got some guys that can get to the offensive glass now so we get it in there and he gets it up on the board, I like our chances of getting some offensive rebounds. In two games, we're averaging about 14 or 15, and that would be phenomenal. I don't think we'll have that many but, some of it depends on where we shoot. We shot well against Ferris and we got 19. We shot over 50 percent against Georgia, and we got 10. Percentage-wise, that's a pretty good showing.

On Jaren Jackson Jr. balancing inside and out...
Well, I want to just let him grow a little bit. He is like a new puppy. We have to teach him where to pee, you know what I mean? It's not in the house, it's outside. He's like a new kid on the block and he's learning. I don't know, maybe Purdue; I don't know how many more physical teams we'll play than that team, as far as physically inside. That was really good for him, and he did learn. What we said after, is the plus of it was he didn't back down, he's just got those olive oil arms, you know, they go forever. So if he doesn't chicken wing himself and get the arm in, it has a tendency where some can wrap around here and the refs will call it. When they wrap around your whole waist almost for the second time, it's a problem. So, he did learn a lot. He was great after. He was almost apologizing to me and I was laughing because Nick was in foul trouble last year every game and he's big and strong, so we knew Jaren had a little bit of that, he's got to learn to play down a little more. We'd like to get the ball into him, too, a little bit more. He took one bad three, one good three, but I'm fine with him taking 3s, he shot the ball well enough. I just think he has so much more to his game, and I thought one thing he didn't do, was he put it on the floor better against Ferris than he did this game. Remember, we're playing against two very experienced guys and guys that have been around and played in a lot of games. That kid (Yante Maten) is picked player of the year in that league. It was a good test. We put him on him first, just to see how he would do. That's part of the reason exhibition games are good.

On Josh Langford's confidence in the second game...
I think confidence is every shooter, him and Matt McQuaid both, every shooter, every pitcher, every quarterback, confidence is a big key. You know, we started off the game and went to him right off the bat and you know, I said it's time to get back on the horse. You know, 0-for-12, you've got to back on the horse. To his credit, he came back but his whole demeanor was different. I think he learned a lesson too, which I hope we all do, that your offense shouldn't dictate, I mean he was on that offensive glass, which you didn't see there but you saw on film is that he and Miles kept a couple balls alive that they didn't get the rebound that other people did and we scored on them. He did a lot more than just 10 or 12 points, whatever he had. Defensively, he was improving, you know. We're improving. Our ball sweep defense was so much more improved and he was part of it. There were a couple little things that he and Cassius (Winston) have to improve on when the screen is coming, and that's getting up, pressing up a little more so it's easier to get over the screens. Josh didn't worry me after that 0-for-12 start, it worried him. I saw him all summer and all spring and all fall. The last thing I was worried about was him and McQuaid making shots. Now, you get in a slump and you don't find the basket, that's something you're going to have to deal with but one game sure wasn't bad to me.

On Gavin Schilling's mobility...
I think his mobility is back almost where it was, almost. It's still lacking, but what is a lot better is now his confidence in what he can do. He actually made a couple plays, he was a lot more on balance, and made his freethrows. He did defend better than any of our big's, so we got a lot of out Schilling. Keep in mind this was after being out eight or nine months, it's not just going to happen coming back. There is still going to be more than a few growing pains and we are going to have to be patient. I learned my lesson last year with McQuaid and Kenny (Goins), so I was happy to see him moving. I wish I would have gotten Ben in a bit little more. Twofold reason why we didn't was just the situation and maybe more importantly, we are a little tentative too as a staff. We think he could be valuable, he could be a guy who can really do some things for us and help. It might not be a ton of minutes, but in minutes we don't want to waste in an exhibition game necessarily. Yet at the same time, he's been out even longer than Gavin so we have to get him some minutes, so that's the happy medium we have to find.

On how the defense will change this year having more big guys in the lineup...
It's a factor and hopefully we are more physical inside and we actually did play more physical inside, it's just that we ran into a team that was as or more physical than us. You talk to their coaches and they thought we were so physical, and you talk to our coach and we thought they were physical. It was funny because during the game DJ (Dwayne Stephens) was chewing on Nick for something and Nick said `well I don't want to foul' and DJ said `we don't care if you foul this year. It doesn't matter. We don't have handcuffs on you like last year. Go do your thing, be who you are.' I think that's going to help us at the end. We can't be clubbing people and putting them to the line because we learned from Georgia, what did they go 22-for-24, so we don't want that either, but we definitely need to play a little more physical, a little more aggressive, not worry about things as much as we did last year. I promise you there will be no speeches that end with `by the way Nick, go knock somebody on their butt, but don't do it where you foul.' That was the oxymoron last year and that's over.

On getting his guys to be more selfish...
You know I will work on it. It's not a bad thing to have to work on. There are a lot of things I'd like to do in my job and if I have to worry about just doing that, that's a pretty good job I got. It starts with Miles, and yet Miles needs to figure out that he can be selfish without being selfish. When he got a couple buckets going off the offensive glass, that wasn't like he was getting a shot or this or that. What I want Miles to be is aggressive every minute of the game because I trust him. You know I thought he took one bad shot early because I think he hadn't had a shot yet. He's more aggressive, he's putting it on the floor so much better than he did. He's passing so much better than he did a year ago that I think he is starting to fall in love with it and like that. I've got to tell him `you still have to score points for me,' and that's what I told him at halftime. I thought in the first half he kind of came on a little bit, but you know in general Cassius is another guy that can pass up some shots and he might be shooting as good as anybody on our team right now. You know McQuaid has done it a couple of times. For some of them it might be confidence, for Miles and Cassius I think it's just unselfishness and we'll find a way to have a happy medium in there.

On Cassius Winston's play thus far...
Better shooter, he's worked hard on his shooting and as I said, I mean, if I went to most nights right now in practice I would say he's been our most consistent shooter which will probably shock a lot of people because Josh (Langford) and Matt McQuaid are probably our best shooters. Miles (Bridges) is shooting the ball awfully well too. I'd say Cassius has been the most consistent. I think he's starting to feel more and more comfortable, and he is realizing that, last year he was the guy who kind of had to have the ball in his hands. He's still always going to have to have the ball in his hands, but realizing that you can give it up early and get it back, you know trusting in the system a little bit. I think he's done a better job of that and I feel really comfortable as long as he doesn't get casual. He had a couple of turnovers that were casual, but he hasn't done that much in practice. I've been as impressed with Cassius as anybody on our team. I thought that in this game, the first game they penetrated him pretty good, this game I thought he did a much, much better job which is always encouraging when you go from one game to the next. That's what will be great about this week, you know, we play another Division II school, but it's a well-coached one that runs a lot of different motion things that you can't prepare for, and are we going to take them for granted? Are we going to prepare like we're playing against ourselves? That's what the battle cry of the week will be. Can we grow up a little bit? Not only grow as a team, but can we grow up and mature a little bit?

On how Ben Carter and Xavier Tillman's post play will allow them to do things that they weren't able to do last season...
We think we can do more high-low, in fact we talked about it at halftime - the way that they were doubling down there. Ben can shoot it well enough in there. Xavier can if you count the bank shot the same as a regular shot. He does not have a broken shot, he has a decent looking shot he just needs reps now. That's where a guy, both guys can pass and you're right, I thought Xavier played awfully well; considering it was his first big game, home crowd, all that. He said he called that free-throw bank, I think he's lying through his teeth but other than that, I thought he showed some composure against some physical guys. He's my Al Anagonye. Some people you know like physicality, some people avoid physicality and some people seek physicality. He's a seeker. It's going to be fun to coach him because he's a seeker. If he's screening, he wants to screen hard. If he's defending, he wants to defend hard. If he's rebounding, he wants to rebound hard. He's probably been as good of surprise as I've had, as far as maybe better than I thought, which usually the surprises as we all say would maybe be the other way. I think we are going to be able to do some more high-to-low, I think we will be able to utilize those guys as passers and, in Ben's case, even as a shooter.

On what he dressed up for Halloween as a kid...
I'm trying to think what Mariucci and I did back in the day, you know, I don't know what my favorite costume is. They didn't have all those fun masks, they had the ones with the rubber bands you know. I'm sure I was Superman or something once in a while. Halloween is always a big night at my house here. It's amazing, we're kind of in a corner and I seem to get people from both sides. Actually, because we were off yesterday, I went with my wife to buy candy and had my son with me. My wife likes buying the big bars and this and that, and when I looked at the bill I said, `what the hell did you buy?!', you know. She said, `well we get 400-500 kids', sometimes I'm gone, I try to be there but I, you know sometimes my players are around so I'm walking around with them, so I guess we get a lot of kids. I'm hoping for cold weather so there's not as many, but actually it's one of the more fun nights for me to be home because we just happen to be in the right spot in my neighborhood where everybody kind of congregates in the corner and goes every which way. It'll be fun, you know I think I'll just dress up as me and hand out candy. That might be it, we'll have a good time. I'll probably watch the baseball game a little bit, too.

On how it was for the young players to experience support of the entire state, not just East Lansing on Sunday...
You know what, it was cool. It was really kind of a neat experience. I couldn't believe we sold it out like that. I even got calls from different media around the country. It speaks volumes of your program when you go to a different venue, whether it be in your own state or not, it still speaks volumes about the impact you can have. I talked to our players about that. I think they were impressed, I think they were excited. And then, you know, giving back to different people. I think that's another good lesson to teach them. That was one of those weird days where there were a lot of wins and not that may losses. I think Mark (Fox) felt his team played pretty good, I think we felt our team played pretty good. I think he said something to me that that was worth two weeks of practice, and I kind of felt the same way. You know which makes me wonder what I would poll for in our NCAA and NABC meetings because you know, having that one time against real, real good teams is, it's good for you especially when you can gain experience.

 

 

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