Michigan State Signs Five to National Letters of Intent
Bingham, Brown, Henry, Kithier & Loyer all sign with Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State men's basketball team has received signed National Letters-of-Intent from Marcus Bingham, Gabe Brown, Aaron Henry, Thomas Kithier and Foster Loyer.
Marcus Bingham Jr. (Forward, 6-10, 195, Grand Rapids, Mich./GR Catholic Central)
2017 Detroit News Class B Fourth Team honoree ... Averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots as a junior ... Led Grand Rapids Catholic Central to a conference title, a district title and an appearance in the regional final ... Grew eight inches over the last two years ... Opened his prep career at Ottawa Hills, where he played as a freshman and a sophomore.
Gabe Brown (Forward, 6-7, 185, Belleville, Mich./Belleville)
2017 Detroit Free Press Class A All-State honoree ... 2017 Detroit News Class A Third Team honoree, while also earning Detroit News All-West honors ... Averaged 15.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks as a junior at Belleville High School ... Shot 60.2 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range ... Led Belleville to a 20-3 record and a district title ... 2017 Associated Press Class A All-State honorable mention ... Grew from 6-3 as a sophomore to 6-7 as a junior.
Aaron Henry (Forward, 6-6, 200, Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis)
2017 Associated Press All-State Second Team selection ... 2017 USA Today All-USA Indiana First Team honoree ... Averaged 14.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a junior ... Led Ben Davis to an Indiana 4A State Championship and a 23-5 overall record ... Totaled 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a 55-52 victory over Fort Wayne North Side in the state title game ... Shot 42 percent from 3-point range ... 2017 Indiana Junior All-Star ... Named to the 2017 Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Underclass All-State Supreme 15 ... Owns a 6-foot-10 wingspan.
Thomas Kithier (Forward, 6-8, 225, Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston)
2017 Detroit Free Press Class A Second Team selection and Detroit News Class A Third Team honoree ... Averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks as a prep junior at Macomb Dakota ... Led Dakota to a 20-4 record and a district title ... 2017 Detroit News All-East Team honoree ... 2017 MLive Detroit Dream Team Second Team selection ... 2017 Associated Press Class A All-State honorable mention ... 2016 Detroit Free Press Class A honorable mention recipient ... Transferred to Clarkston High School for his senior year.
Foster Loyer (Guard, 6-0, 165, Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston)
2017 Detroit Free Press and Detroit News Dream Team member ... 2017 MLive Detroit Player of the Year ... 2017 Associated Press Class A All-State First Team selection ... Detroit News All-North selection ... 2017 MaxPreps Junior All-American First-Team honoree and Fourth Team All-American ... Averaged 25.1 points, 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals as a prep junior ... Shot 95.7 percent from the foul line (135-141), 53 percent from the field, and 46.9 percent from 3-point range in the regular season ... During the 2017 state tournament he hit 16-of-17 free throws, while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from behind the arc ... Led Clarkston to a Class A State Championship with 29 points, five rebounds and three assists in a 75-69 victory over Grand Rapids Christian in the state title game ... Posted a 71-5 record over his first three years of high school ... Made 119 consecutive free throws during a stretch that extended from his sophomore to junior year, establishing a new state of Michigan record, and ranking second nationally all-time ... Averaged 22.6 points, 6.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals as a sophomore ... 2016 Detroit Free Press and Detroit News Class A First Team honoree ... Averaged 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists as a freshman ... Established a freshman school record with 432 points ... 2015 Detroit News Class A All-State First Team and Detroit Free Press Third Team selection ... Father John was a longtime NBA assistant coach, and currently serves as Director of Pro Scouting for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The following is a complete transcript from Wednesday's press conference.
Well I know one thing for sure, if next year’s class comes in and we lose a game I should be fired because we didn’t miss a shot. As you can see they try to put some things together.
Marcus Bingham – he’s a 6’ 10”, 6’ 11” guy with a long reach, kind of like a Jaren Jackson. Probably shoots the ball as good as any big guy we’ve had. He’s grown eight inches in the last couple of years so he actually has guard skills where he can handle the ball, dribble the ball. He’s gained some All-State honors, and yet there’s a guy that’s just kind of in the making. If you look at him on potential, you might say he’s the best player potentially, because he has great potential. He’s got to gain 30 lbs., he’s got to do some things, but the kid was very well-coached in high school and he has great, I think, skills to develop into something special.
Gabe Brown is the guy hardest for maybe you guys to know much about. He was a First-Team All-Stater, but he didn’t play in the summer, he got injured. He averaged 16 points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks and shot 50 percent from the field and 41 from the three. I think he’s kind of a Morris Peterson-type player. He’s left-handed. He too has grown a lot in the last couple of years, so he has pretty good guard skills, pretty good athletic ability. Every year we seem to do something different. We had the Nix (Derrick Nix) era and the fact that our own player right now in Nick Ward had to lose a lot of weight, we’ve got a couple of guys that have to gain some weight. He’s one of them. He grew from 6’ 3” to 6’ 7” in one year and I think he’s still growing after I saw him a couple of weeks ago. We think Gabe, even though he missed with a little slight knee injury most of the summer, he’s got a chance to be one of the more versatile guys.
Aaron Henry we got in on a little late. He won a State Championship at one of the best schools in the state of Indiana – Ben Davis. He averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds, but almost four assists, so he’s a player that we think is multi-skilled, can do a lot of different things. He shot 42 percent from the three, and yet, I think some of that is he has selective shooting. In other words, he doesn’t take a lot of 3s, he doesn’t force a lot of shots. He’s a winner that does the little things. The word ‘winner’ is how his coach at Ben Davis - who has had a lot of players over the years - talked about him, and I’d have to agree.
Thomas Kithier – a guy that’s been committed to us for a couple of years. Averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists. He earned Second-Team All-State honors a year ago. He was the first member of this class. We look at Thomas as a 6’ 8” 225-pounder that every time we see him, we think he’s improved some. The game is important to him, he’s a good student. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball up to 15-16 feet, maybe longer. Very multi-skilled, kind of like Matt Costello. Some of the 6’ 8” kids we’ve had that can do a lot of something, and yet not maybe overly talented as far as athleticism and things like that. We think another good addition to this class.
Foster Loyer from Clarkston (Mich.), already a three-time All-State honoree. Who is he like? I guess he’s got a little Scott Skiles in him, a little Drew Neitzel in him, he’s got a little Cassius Winston in him. He can do a lot of things. He averaged 25 points, 6.5 assists, four rebounds, 2.5 steals and missed a free-throw…I think he missed one in 2015 and two in 2016 and maybe a couple last year. He shot 95.7 percent from the free-throw line. He doesn’t miss many free-throws. He shot very well from range. He’s growing a little bit, he’s 6’ now. He made 119 consecutive free-throws, Michigan’s longest streak and it was the second longest in the nation. Won a state title last year and was 71-5 in three years of high school.
I think each one of them brings something different; each one of them gives us something that I think will blend in with what we have. Foster will start out a great backup to Cash (Winston) and I think when you look at Henry and Brown, they’re great athletes at that 6’ 7”, 6’ 6”, 6’ 8” height. And then with Bingham, you know the 6’ 10” guy, 6’ 11” guy who has incredible potential as long as he keeps getting bigger and stronger.
On if he’s shocked at how 'undervalued' Foster Loyer is…
You know, yeah and no. Certain programs don’t like small guards. And certain people like certain things, and as you say, I don’t really care. He committed to us pretty early also, so that negates some of the recruiting attention you get. Some of these kids wait until the last second. I just know this – as a student and as a player, and back to the Jud Heathcote theory as a coach’s son – his dad coached in the NBA and in college – I feel very fortunate with what we got and I wouldn’t trade him.
On the talent level in the state of Michigan…
The talent level in the state is getting better and better as long as we can keep them here from some of the prep schools and all that. The talent level in this state has definitely improved. They said it’s cyclical, and you know Indiana has been through that, Ohio has been through it, Illinois’ been through that. I’m just happy that right now our state in the last class or two, and the next classes has got some very good players. My theory has been that if I can put a fence around the state, that’s very, very, very important. Hasn’t changed since I got here. The only thing that changes is the availability of those kind of players.
On taking commitments early and if it’s something that he will continue to do…
Well you bring up a really good point, and the truth of the matter is that we’re going through a stage where we’re losing guys. I think what’s important to look at is getting some, you’ve got to have some talented kids, and they could be one and done or two and done. But we’ve built this program on some kids that are three and four-year players. We looked at Thomas (Kithier) as potentially that. Once they come, you know we looked at DD (Deyonta Davis) as a three-year player, and he was gone in a year. So you never know. That was kind of the theory – a kid who wanted to be here, a kid that grew up wanting to be here, a kid with size. Maybe he wasn’t recruited by the world, but I think we’ve learned a valuable lesson in football. You know when you look at some of those receivers and what they’ve done, it’s not always the ranking, it’s more where they want to be and what they want to do. Yeah, I think some of the theory behind it was that we want to get a guy that wants to be here, I want to get a guy that I think is going to be here for a while. A while doesn’t mean four years anymore, unfortunately, but in most cases it doesn’t mean one year either. I think that’s what Thomas gave to us, I think we gave something to him. Match made in heaven.
On Gabe Brown’s injury…
I kept an eye on it a lot. We went and visited him in early September – he was just coming back and was able to start shooting, now he’s full-go. I just saw a video on him the other day that he sent. This kid has grown, too. I’m not sure he’s not 6’ 8”. I’ve been very impressed with Gabe Brown. I think he’s, again, you know when you’re injured or depending on how your team has done or what AAU team you’re on, some get more exposure than they should and some get less exposure than they should. We really like Gabe. We think he’s a guy that has very, very good versatility. He can put it on the floor, he can shoot a three, he can take it to the hole and dunk on people, and he’s got length. So all we’ve got to do is build up his strength and keep improving the other areas. The injury doesn’t seem to be anything that’s going to threaten his career in any way, it just kept him out this summer.
On the ranking of this recruiting class and if they were difficult to recruit…
I think half the reason, sometimes you get ranked higher through numbers. I don’t know where this class lined up, but I know where it’ll end up for me is it’ll be the one we wanted. So the numbers sometimes gives you, you know, last year I don’t know where we were ranked, we had two very good players, but we only had two. If you have four that’s one thing, if you have five that kind of works to your favor as far as the rankings. The knock-down things – we had a couple of guys in-state that were dying to be here. That’s what happens when you grow up in a state and you’ve won. We may be reaping a few benefits from the 20-straight years of getting in the tournament. Most of these kids grew up with us on their mind and that’s helped us some. And then the other thing is, you know I think we’re being a little more picky and choosey as far as who we recruit, who we’re recruiting against. As I said, if you look at it here, I think, Coach D (Dantonio) and I talked about it over the years, you win with people that want to be here. You don’t win with rankings, you win with performance. I think I had a year or two where I got caught up. The higher the recruiting class sometimes, I’ve gotten lucky lately that there have been some high classes with some incredible kids. Right now, every day is a war for us in recruiting, trust me on that. We have been a little more selective, and we have been a little more aggressive in not letting things drag out where some of the problems always occur.
On the rise of Marcus Bingham…
Yeah, you know his coach, T.J., I think has done a great job with him and he transferred schools early in his career. I think that academics wasn’t as much of a priority as they’ve become. Then he played pretty well on his AAU team, but I’d have to say what really excited us was his high school coach bringing him up and getting a chance to know him a little bit and then watching his skill-level and size. So if he’s got skill and size, then it’s our job to make him stronger, tougher, more aggressive. I like my chances helping a kid improve in those areas than helping him grow seven inches because I can’t do that. Or helping him, you know, get his shot. We can help him, but if you can’t shoot by your senior year of high school it’s hard to improve enough to be really good at it. He’s a very good shooter – he’s got that art down. It’s going to come down to his strength, his desire, his work ethic. I’m not sure those were where he wanted them early in his career, but I think with the help of his coach, his mother, everything, it’s really increased and improved. And I think getting here with a guy like Xavier (Tillman) who’s from the same area will help him. Xavier changed his body a lot the other way and Xavier also changed his work ethic and everything. He’s becoming a really good player.
On Gabe Brown getting emotional when he committed and if that makes it extra special to Coach Izzo…
Yeah, and it will be up until the middle of, the end of next June. Then it’s back to ‘dog eat dog’ as they always say. You know, it was important to him, and losing his family like he did and having his brother there, I think it was important that he stayed somewhat close to home. As I said, Gabe is a guy that we’ve grown on. Mike Garland knew him well, he’s from his neck of the woods, went to the same school. You know Mike knows everyone’s aunts and uncles and uncles and aunts, and everybody talks so highly of this kid and what his potential is. I’d say, you know in some ways this class is a little bit more in potential than in actual performance if you look at them as a group. Gabe didn’t play this summer. Marcus grew six or seven inches, you know, different things like that, but it wasn’t just a guess either. It’s not just a hunch, it’s not just a maybe this will happen. But probably a little more on potential than normally we recruit.
On Thomas Kithier and Foster Loyer getting to play together and if that’s exciting for Coach Izzo…
I mean it is. I don’t, they played together in the summer. I don’t see that as monumental, making that kind of difference, but you know they’ve known each other. I think what’s great here is guys kind of welcome each other pretty well here. These will be two guys who have played together, but they’ve been up here together a lot the last two and three years. They know our other guys just about as well. I don’t know if Foster will be throwing him any real lobs, he’s not that kind of player, so it’ll be how we do. It’ll be good, it’s always good the better you get to know somebody, but I don’t know if it’ll be overly significant.
On reloading in the front court and if that was going through his mind while recruiting…
Yeah and there’s so many things you don’t know, you know, I mean who knows anymore? We were a little shell-shocked and some of the things that happened, you know. I don’t know who will be coming and going. I’m sure Miles (Bridges) will probably stay another year, but I don’t really know everybody coming and going. You do have to be more prepared than we were that year last year. Some of it, when you get two bigs hurt the first week, but some of it was losing DD (Deyonta Davis) and not being prepared for that, so we’re trying to be a little more prepared in some ways so that we’re not left with nothing. And that’s what we were a year ago.
On approaching the rest of the recruiting cycle…
That’s the life I’ve got to live now, that’s the way it is. I don’t know who will be here and who won’t be here. I have a pretty good feel, I don’t think there’s any, you know we’ve done a better job of maybe staying on top of it. You know maybe the DD (Deyonta Davis) thing we didn’t stay on top of as well, that’d be my fault I guess. But there are surprises every once in awhile and so we’ve learned from what we do and try to handle those things a little better now and I think in general we feel pretty comfortable with where we’re at. It’s a big year next year. You know every year is a big year if you’re here. We just have got to find guys that fit in with other guys and realize that you’re recruiting star players, you have to recruit some role players, you have to recruit some players that are in that echelon to be one or two and done and you have to try to recruit some that you think will be here three or four years. Sometimes you think they’re going to be and they’re not, and sometimes you think they’re not and shazaam, look what happened – they’re around a little longer than you thought.
You know, I don’t even know anymore. I guess if I had to tell you the truth, and some of you guys have been around me for a long time, you know I went through this stage 15 or 20 years ago, being angry about everything, you know, being upset or mad about everything. And I knew more than most people knew then about things that were going on or not going on. But then I got to the point where I got a little more at peace with myself, and I’m going to recruit who I want to recruit and I’m going to work my tail off. And if somebody else gets them, one way or another, either they beat us out - which has happened many, many times - or they beat us out in other ways, I’ve just got to be man enough to move on and do what I’ve got to do. I don’t think this is an epidemic as I’ve said before. I don’t think, you know, everybody is going underground.
What I do think, personally, is we’ve got too many people in the middle of things. I don’t see where that’s good for kids in any way, shape or form. That’s the only thing I’d like to correct and I don’t know if it’s ever going to be easy here, because it’s not certain schools that the school recruits to itself. We do have as nice of facility as anybody in the country and they have gotten even nicer. We do have some great guys here. I think I’ve got a good coaching staff so we’re going to get players every year. With this probe and what happens, I’ll probably know more in a couple of months when we find out what really happens and what really is. I didn’t even read all of the transcripts of all the stuff because I’m trying to say I don’t care. I care about our profession, but I don’t care individually for me. I’m going to try and recruit the kids that I want that want to be here. It’s worked out for the most part for many years and I’m hoping it’ll continue.
I hope so because I think we’re educators and it should be in the school systems. School systems have got to change sometimes too some. We’ve hired so many people outside the systems, but there needs to be accountability in everything we do. I think one way to have accountability if it is more in the school systems, I think most coaches would prefer that. That’s not always against the AAU thing, it’s against some accountability. What is the accountability? What do you have to do to become a coach? Do you have a boss? I always give you guys a hall pass when you write bad stuff because I know you have a boss. Some people have no bosses and when there’s no boss, it’s the Wild Wild West.
On how active Foster Loyer’s dad was in the recruiting process…
His mom and dad, a little bit like Jaren Jackson’s, like Miles’ (Bridges), I’ve been pretty fortunate lately when I look at it, Xavier’s (Tillman). Active but not active like… He knew it, he recruited for 15 years and was in the NBA for 15, 16 years. He was about as humble and appreciative, never acted any way, shape, or form. I love the way his dad handled it. He was involved, I’m sure he knew what was going on, I’m sure he did his homework, but he never acted that way and it was a treat. I got a chance to recruit Foster, but his mom and dad were involved, but I didn’t see them in the middle asking for 9,000 people’s opinions and things like that. It was really, really good.
On Aaron Henry…
Yeah we saw Aaron Henry as a sophomore and we kind of questioned it. Dane (Fife) saw him, I think D.J. saw him, questioned it. Then his junior year, that summer, we saw him a little bit more. To be honest with you, we talked to Gary Harris a lot. He’s from the same area as Gary, actually played on his AAU team. Gary told us a lot of things about the kid that we didn’t know; how hard he works, what potential he thought he had and things like that, he knew the kid. It got us re-engaged. When we re-engaged we started seeing more and more things we liked and then we started seeing some things we really liked. As we got to know the kid and the parents, it took us to another level and we were in on another kid or two at the same position and we just pulled a plug and went with him. We thought it was a good move for us. What I like about all these guys is all of them have played well and helped their teams win. You look at Foster and what he’s done there, it’s unbelievable. (Thomas) Kithier too.
Then you look at Aaron (Henry) and you win a State Championship in Indiana at Ben Davis, one of the largest schools in the state of Indiana, that’s pretty impressive. I really have a feeling that it was a good move on our part and hopefully for him.
Opening statement about Friday’s game…
When the start of the season comes, it’s always exciting but it’s a little bit… it makes you nervous about where you are and what you are. We’ve had the exhibition games and I think we’ve done a good job in our exhibition games of playing against three completely different kinds of teams. As I said, the Ferris team that drove us to death, the team in Georgia that pounded the ball inside and did so many things in there and the team of course in Hillsdale that was cutting, slashing, slipping, doing all these things. And yet maybe none of them were a great 3-point shooting team.
So who do we open with? We open with maybe a team that could shoot 25, 28 3s in this game. Well-coached team, it’s a team that plays in the Atlantic Sun, a pretty good conference. It’s been one of the better teams in that conference, picked by some to win it. They’re in the same league with Florida Gulf Coast, as we know they’re a very good team. I know our players are ready to go and they’re excited, but I also know that the chore is this is a team that has, I think, three or four major transfers coming in. It’s hard to tell exactly what you’re going to get.
Their top player is a kid named Aminu, not as good with his first name, Wajid. Last year, freshman of the year, Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. When you watch him on tape, last year they shot 25 3s a game. This year just watching them in scrimmage, they will shoot more. They have at least four guys that can shoot it a lot. Not real big in size, but I think a team that concerns me because anytime a team can shoot 3s it’s concerning to me. That’s how most upsets happen as we remember back and learned from the Middle Tennessee game. Are there any questions on this? Otherwise I’ll continue.
On the team wearing shirts on Friday...
Well I told you guys that if we ever decided to do anything with the social injustices of our country that are going on, we would do it as a team, and I told you I’d talk to you. I think some of the mistakes that I’ve seen being made are people do things without explaining what they’re doing. We’re not doing anything earth-shattering, but it is important for the people to understand our motivation in what we’re doing.
We’ve had a lot of discussion in this room. Two or three serious meetings with our team this fall as we saw what was going on around the country. We opened up to each other about the different backgrounds, different experiences. We’ve got a lot of different things to cover on a team. Not only what country you are, but what religion you are, what race you are. Understanding that someone’s past experiences usually shape their view of the current events. I look at where I came from, how I felt and how little educated I was on some things, it just made me continue to think. One thing that we all agreed on is that there are social injustices, every kid on our team. There’s so much divisiveness in our country that our players wanted to do something, but they didn’t want to do anything to maybe offend or anything else. Too many people… We felt there were too many people talking and not enough people listening.
Everybody has their own opinion on things. Everybody talks about things and not a lot gets done. As the team, we realize that we have a platform to make our world a better place, at least to start conversation locally. I was very impressed with different people I researched. I think it was Steph Curry who talked about starting the grass roots and getting your communities, your young kids to understand, maybe some of these social injustices. We also understood that doing nothing doesn’t help and so we decided to wear a t-shirt. We’re going to wear a t-shirt and this is going to kind of, there’s going to be parts to this. First one is we talk and we listen. It’s we talk because we had conversation, but everybody got to listen. They got to listen to Ben (Carter) about his religion. They got to listen to some guys about where they grew up. They got to listen to me tell my stories about meeting Mike Garland and what it did to my life. We got to talk about it, but everybody said you got to talk about something, not many people listen. In my summer camp, I have something that I say, ‘learn to listen, listen to learn.’ I felt like there’s not a lot of listening going on. We found that conversation, the art of talking - more importantly listening - was a powerful tool in this room that you’re sitting in. Our hope is that our t-shirts might inspire others to have conversations about things the same way. We’re a stronger team when we talk together, when we work together. We believe our country can be a better place if we do the same. Not everything can be viewed in absolutes, some of my favorite topics coming up. There’s a spectrum of beliefs that are influenced by our experiences and our backgrounds. Unfortunately, so much of today’s dialogue is influenced by Twitter. This is a conversation that can’t be had in 140 characters. I have gotten so smart on Twitter that I realize they just changed it to 280 characters. We’re getting positive here, where 280 times they can say something that’s crazy. This can’t be talked about in characters, it’s got to be talked about deeply.
This is just the first step. Mike and I are going to look at some things that we want to do. Maybe there will be a different shirt, maybe there’s going to be different things. It’s not going to be something that we’re going to tax our kids with. It’s their way of being able to stay humble, but try to make a difference. It’s part of the education process, and really that’s why we’re in school, to educate kids. Together as a team, as Spartans, we can strive to be a part of a positive change. Not trying to capture the moment, we’re trying to create a movement, and that is a major statement. This isn’t for show, this isn’t make anybody feel good, it’s not to make anybody feel bad. It’s to figure out that we need to capture a moment and get people to converse to create a movement. Like our mission statement that my AD (Mark Hollis) so strongly believes in, we gather and engage. When he talks about gathering and engaging you do that with conversation. I’ve found in my career that there’s a lot of things we don’t converse about if they are a little bit delicate issues, we don’t talk about them. It doesn’t hurt to talk about them. Important to know that this is not a protest, not going to be. During the anthem, we plan on doing what we always do – standing with our hand over our heart. Our administration is also looking into ways to honor the men and women that keep us safe and protect our freedom. We’re going to try to do more for all people. So in closing, so nobody gets this wrong in the Twitter era; to talk, to listen, to have conversation about issues that affect us all. We want to be somewhat part of hopefully a movement that improves all of us. I’ve done a lot of great things at this school, been a part of a lot of great things. Sitting in this room, right here, on two or three different occasions in meetings is almost more powerful to me. Listening to kids talk and you’d be surprised, it’s not all one-dimensional. These kids, everybody has a different opinion. When we started listening to each other and saw different kids have different opinions and different ideas, it was awesome. I told you I’d tell you, last time I said it. There are people that got upset. What are they going to do? We’re not doing anything. We’re going to do something that we do as a team. With our team we try to get everybody together and together teams win. If you’re following our football team, I don’t think anybody would disagree, it’s more together this year and we’re winning. Why not our University? Why not our community? Why not our state? Why not our country? Why not our world? I hope you understand the reasoning. I hope that… If you have any questions I’ll answer them real quick and we’ll finally get you out of here so you can enjoy the day.
On if the t-shirts will be worn during warm-ups…
Yeah it’ll be worn for warm-ups. I guess the one part I didn’t really say, I kind of said it, this will not be necessarily a one-time thing or even a two-time or three-time thing. We’re looking at how we can progress into the education process. This is a process. We’re not going to change anything overnight to try to make some bold statement. We’re trying to get more people to join in and see that when you converse, when you talk about it, the ‘we talk, we listen’ sounds a little crazy, but it was kind of really important to our players and to us that we’re going to talk about the things, we’re not going to hide behind them. We’re going to listen to what other people have to say, not just what our own opinion is because we haven’t been through all these things, each one of us. Mike Garland didn’t live in Iron Mountain, Michigan and Tom Izzo didn’t live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It’s nice when people tell you what it’s like other places, and you learn and then you figure out. What usually happens, is we’re all in it for the same reasons.
On what the t-shirts will say…
Yeah it’s going to say, ‘we talk, we listen’ and then our logo of the inspirational statement on the back that Miles brought to the table. It’s going to be all about, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about us.’ Us is everybody that’s in that arena and for me, 500,000 living alums and hopefully it gets bigger.
On if the shirts will be sold and if the money will go to charity…
You know that’s the funny part, we didn’t even think about it because this isn’t about… The last thing this is about is making money. In fact, that is the very last thing on the planet that this is for, and maybe that’s the beauty of it and that’s why it was so simple. We talk, we listen. It’s self-explanatory if you see it. The only reason for it… And it might grow, it might grow to the Izzone, it might grow to the entire arena. We felt like saying nothing was not right because we all agreed there are social injustices. We thought making certain things too big of a deal, we have a job to do and our job to do is to win basketball games. If somehow we can bring the two together, man, we’ve accomplished a lot.
On how all of this came together and how they decided to figure it out…
It’s funny. It started with a white upper that’s married to a Hispanic woman. I called a meeting. I just said, you know what, how many agree that there are social injustices in our country right now? Fifteen guys and four coaches raised their hand. I just said that we’re going to talk about it. You’re going to talk. It went real slow the first time. Partly because not everyone understands what’s going on. Not everyone has been through it. Some people that have been through it more than others have a greater appreciation for it. Everybody hasn’t been through the same issues. We’re teammates, we care about it. If it’s only one guy that went through something that was really bad, we have to care for him. I think that’s why it grew. The second meeting there was a little more talking, then we had some individual meetings. I had a meeting with guys. David Thomas, Mike Garland, Dwayne Stephens, Dane Fife - everybody met with different guys. We kind of grew this over for the last month. As we saw what was going on, we didn’t make a distraction on what we were doing. We just tried to get a feel on how we could help, because what happens is maybe some kid has really been hit by it or maybe his parents have. Maybe that’s bothering him. We just want to get everything out in the open. To me, it was like winning a championship. Just talking about it helped me understand them. It’s not even race sometimes, it’s not even religion sometimes. Sometimes it’s age. A 20-year-old and a 60-year-old. You have a lot of things to talk about in that space. The biggest thing is, I’ve been a guy that, to me, we’re all Americans. Before I die I hope that’s the way it is.
On his response to the situation being involved in sports or not…
I hope my kids are involved in it. They’re not in sports. I just think that we do have a platform. I don’t want the platform to be that we’re protesting everything or that we’re doing this or that. We’re involved in education. I don’t think enough people understand or are educated enough. I’m guilty. I’m a leader. You guys all know where I’m from. Not a lot of diversity where I’m from. It’s not my fault. Mike helped me understand what was going on. Different races and different creeds. Then I had guys on my team that are from different countries. I had guys on my team that are different religions. I don’t understand them at all, but I found out the more I talk, the more I get educated, it doesn’t separate us as much as I thought it would. It kind of brings us all closer together. We’ll have a better understanding of each other. We’re so built it seems like today. We want to only say the politically correct thing, but what happens is nobody says anything.
I’m not making any life statement here. I’m going to say this. There’s a lot of different races that have helped me become successful. A lot of different people that have helped me become successful. I think I’ve helped some of those different people become successful. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about? If we can do that as a team, why don’t we do that as a school? Why don’t we do that as a community, why don’t we keep growing it? Instead of all of the things that are going on. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. That’s a harsh statement. That’s me personally, I want to pin that on me. Not any players. I like what we’re doing. I like the direction, I like what they came up with. I appreciate my coaching staff. This was a 22-man decision. It wasn’t something that we spent a zillion hours on. We just talked about if we can do something that will help our fans appreciate what our team appreciates. We can’t have a meeting in here with 2,000 and 4,000 Izzone members. We can’t have a meeting in here with 15,000 people. We can’t have a meeting in here with 500,000 alums. It grows. But, if I can be a part of helping it grow, I’ve done a lot more than winning a national championship. If I can do both, wow, that’d be special.
I appreciate, I just wanted to make sure you understand. I told you I think some people have done things without explaining them and I think that leaves it up to the Twitter world to decide if they want to pick and choose. There’s nothing, there’s no money in this, there’s no advertising in this, there’s no ‘Tom’s a good guy, a bad guy,’ there’s no ‘the players are.’ It’s kind of just doing it. Does anyone in here disagree that we should all be on the same page?
So, if you don’t, this is super. I appreciate it. I appreciate the support you give us and hopefully we’re going to give you a fun season starting out Friday with not an easy game. I think it’ll be a game that brings something different. It will be four different games with four different style offenses and this one will be flying from a long ways. We do have to get better. I should talk about this for a second. We haven’t shot the ball real well. I don’t know why. We’ve been shooting it well all year. We, as a coaching staff, have to do a better job substituting people. It’s been a little bit challenging because certain guys can only play certain minutes. Just about everybody except for Ben (Carter) has been cleared to go now. Ben is pretty cleared to go, we didn’t want to do a bunch in the exhibition. We wanted him to build his confidence and understand that he’s okay from a major injury like that. Some of it is how confident you are coming back. We have to learn how to sub our people a little bit better. We can’t have Miles playing 16-straight minutes or something like that. So that’s going to fall on me. We have a lot of work to do and that’s why we have a preseason. That’s why you have exhibition and preseason and then we do have a Big Ten season that is kind of interrupting the preseason this year and that’ll be something new for us to deal with. I think it’s exciting. We plan on playing a good game Friday, getting up early Saturday morning and watching the film, practicing early, then going somewhere together, maybe my house, and cheering on our football team because they’ve been an inspiration to me and to us and we can get ready for another game on Tuesday.