Tom Izzo Live Chat Transcript
November 12, 1998
MSU Head Basketball Coach Tom Izzo joined FANSonly for a live chat to kick off the 1998 Midnight Madness festivities. If you missed out, the transcript from the chat is below. After reading the transcript, you should also check out the team outlooks, '97-'98 season highlight videos, and other special features that are available.
Q: Coach, other than you guys, who do you se as the other 3-4 teams in contention for the Big Ten title?
Coach Izzo: I think there could be alot of teams in contention but off hand I see Purdue, Minnesota, and Indiana playing major factors in this conference.
Q: How do you see Adam Ballinger and Brandon Smith fitting in this year? Are either immediate impact players?
Coach Izzo: I don't think they are impact players. We're trying to bring them along slowly. Ballinger has good post moves, but the big question mark is whether he's strong enough to play in this league right now. Brandon Smith can give us some help as a true PG and hopefully will give us some help in a backup role.
Q: Coach, Mateen Cleaves was hurt this summer. Is he fully recovered?
Coach Izzo: Cleaves is fully recovered after the ankle and the shoulder. It gave him about 2 months where he could do very little with basketball. It gave him some good rest. But the shoulder injury prevented him from working fully on this shooting in the late summer. He didn't get to work on as many things as we would have liked him to but we think that he'll still step up big for us.
Q: How do you feel about Mike Chappel as an overall player? I've played on his team before and he is so quiet and giving...You agree?
Coach Izzo: Chappell will be a good player down the road. He'll be red-shirted because of his transfer. His 2 years at Duke were good for him. And I think the year off will help him in certain areas like strength. And overall, I think he'll be a great contributor here at MSU.
Q: Coach Izzo, who do you see as the player who must improve the most on your team to help you guys reach your goals this season?
Coach Izzo: I think we have 3 players, but I would say AJ Granger. But if Hudson, Smith, and Granger really develop inside, that will be a huge help to us.
Q: Do you feel Mateen Cleaves will be ready for the NBA after this season? Has he expressed his intentions to you about whether he may leave early?
Coach Izzo: I'm not sure he'll be ready. I think things are getting blown out of proportion for all college players. Players are not aware of how good they need to be. The good part for our program and our team is that Mateen is just looking to have a great year. He's doing well in school, which is one of the keys, because academic performance is a major factor in sending kids to the NBA early. It's unfortunate.
Q: How do you think the NBA Lockout will affect the college game? Think it will attract more fans?
Coach Izzo: I'm saddened by the NBA lockout for players, coaches, and mgmt. I don't think it's good for basketball but I don't know enough about it to be judgmental. I think there's plenty of interest in college basketball so I'd like to see them playing and I'd like to see us playing.
Q: What type of events are happening for Midnight Madness in E. Lansing?
Coach Izzo: We plan on doing it like alot of schools. We plan on a big crowd and it's our night to give back to the people who have supported us so well. Alot of activities, a little bit of basketball, and a big effort to rally this great basketball community.
Q: Where's the toughest place to play in the Big 10?
Coach Izzo: Since we lead the country in attendance for the last 22 years, I'd say they're all pretty tough places to play. Purdue and Indiana are definitely the toughest but Minnesota and Iowa are close behind those two.
Q: As a HUGE Saprtan basketball fan, I can't remember having this kind of preseason ranking in a long time. Do you feel any added pressure because of this?
Coach Izzo: I don't have a team full of egomaniacs, so it should be fine. It's unchartered territory that we'll have to deal with on a daily basis.
Q: Coach, which players have shown the most marked improvement in the offseason. And, in what areas have they improved?
Coach Izzo: I think Charlie Bell improved his offensive range and strength. AJ Granger also improved remarkably. It's still really hard to tell until practice starts though.
Q: Is being away from the game for two months tough for somebody like Mateen?
Coach Izzo: Fortunately, he's done it before when he was a freshman. He has a better feel of what he needs to do. I think he has enough natural skills to overcome it however.
Q: What teams are in your preseason top 5?
Coach Izzo: I think Duke and UConn are head and shoulders above the rest right now. Temple is also going to be a really good team. John Chaney is as good a coach as there is. And you can never count out Kentucky, UCLA, & Kansas. One team that I'm really looking out for is Maryland. Stanford could also be one of the elite teams with all the people returning and their experience in the Final Four.
Q: Coach, what advice would you give for someone trying to enter the college coaching ranks but didn't compete as player?
Coach Izzo: I think it's more difficult but as you look at college basketball, alot of the great coaches - almost none of them were great players. It just helps you understand the highs and lows and what it's like to be on the road. But if you're dedicated, you definitely have a chance. I just think for some situations like coaching, it's better to have gone through the whole experience before.
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