For a reporter, Michigan State basketball media day is information/opportunity/creativity overload.
There are plethora of intriguing story lines, all available at once after six months away, many prompted by a coach (that’d be Tom Izzo) who embraces the microphone as much as his counterpart in football (i.e. Mark Dantonio) appears to detest it.
It takes a minute to adjust.
Possibly the most important two narratives from the day were and are the ‘freakish’ recovery from an ACL tear by Branden Dawson and his potential impact, and the surprising captaincy choices of Derrick Nix and, perhaps more so, Russell Byrd.
I hope so, at least. Because that’s what Joe Rexrode and I wrote about for this audience.
Nix, to me, is a compelling character to write. I find him genuine and interesting, more so than most athletes I’ve covered. And wrote about him quite a bit at my previous employer, the last time, immediately after the press conference in which Izzo announced Nix had been reinstated to the program following his April 3 arrest.
I spoke with Nix once this summer, for a few minutes at the Moneyball summer pro-am league in Lansing. It struck me how open and engaging he was, harboring no ill will, even after having his reputation dragged through the mud, albeit much of his own doing (though some of it, in my opinion, media overkill). He took responsibility. Sounded at peace with what had been said and written about him, saying he deserved all of it.
He came across as captain-worthy that day. Apparently his teammates and Izzo were getting a similar vibe.
There are a bevy of other stories heading into the season, discussed to some degree Tuesday:
- Travis Trice being set back almost two months this summer by a bacterial infection or parasite, never fully diagnosed.
- Izzo’s intention to keep Keith Appling at point guard, while freshman dizzying assist man Denzel Valentine finds his minutes as a sub or on the wing.
- Izzo’s plan to run-and-gun more than he has in years, with better depth of talent than any of his teams probably since 2000-01, according to assistant Mike Garland.
- The would-be starting lineup if the season began today, which includes both Nix and Adreian Payne, as well as Dawson, with Appling at the point. The fifth spot is up for grabs. Here’s guessing it’s freshman Gary Harris, since it’s likely a shooting guard and Izzo said Harris is living up to his billing and then some during team workouts.
Speaking of Harris and (finally) getting more into to the headline of this blog …
There are two dunks, digitally recorded and stored on computers in MSU’s basketball offices, that I hope find their way onto YouTube or Twitter or, better yet, this website.
One of them received plenty of buzz Tuesday. Amid all the talk about Byrd, the biggest sign he’s healthy might be his dunk in practice over (or by) Dawson — the extent of the posterizing depending on which story you believe.
“I did dunk on Dawson,” Byrd said, laughing but serious.
When told Dawson says Byrd dunked “around him,” Byrd replied, “I dunked on him. He can say what he wants, it’s all love.
“You guys, no one has seen me healthy, so it might surprise you guys.”
Byrd then shifted the conversation to another dunk …
“Everybody went nuts, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t go as nuts as when Garry Harris dunked on Matt Costello. That was nasty. That was disgusting.”
Byrd’s ensuing description is one of the best of a dunk I’ve ever heard.
“I think he got his head above the rim, then he hit Costello and went higher, and stopped because he didn’t know what to do, so he just kind of put (the ball) in and floated down. … It’s pretty special stuff.”
I’d like to see that. I think we all would. How about sending it out via Twitter, @MSU_Basketball?