All this week and leading up to MSU’s season opener on Nov. 8 against McNeese State, I’ll break down every scholarship player on the Spartans’ roster. These should serve as your primer for the team’s two exhibition games against Division II opponents – tonight with Grand Valley State and next Monday against Indiana (Pa.).
Next up on the numerical list is No. 2 Alex Gauna, a local product who wants to become a bigger asset to the Spartans in his fourth season with the program.
PLAYER: Alex Gauna
POSITION: Power forward
CLASS: Redshirt junior
HOMETOWN/HIGH SCHOOL: Eaton Rapids/Eaton Rapids HS
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-9, 250
2012-13 TOTALS: 35 games (3 starts), 1.2 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 6.1 mpg, 54.1 pct. FG, 50.0 pct. FT
STRENGTH: Pick-and-pop shooter
WEAKNESS: Lateral quickness
ROLE: Rebounding and scoring off the bench
LOFTY COMPARISONS: Gauna possesses a lean build and athletic ability to run the court with coach Tom Izzoâ€™s up-tempo demands. Heâ€™s always been more comfortable as a pick-and-pop type player than a true post-up four-man, which has elicited comparisons to A.J. Granger and Goran Suton â€“ two of MSU’s best-shooting big men under Izzo.
â€śHe’s shooting the ball real well,â€ť Izzo said of Gauna. â€śI’d still like to get him in the post a little bit more. He can be a very good rebounder. He is a good athlete.â€ť
PASSION PLAY: One area Izzo wanted Gauna to work on in past years was his passion for the game, something the coach felt did improve over the past year.
This summer, Izzo said Gauna has done enough that he could challenge Matt Costello and freshman Gavin Schilling for the final starting spot in the paint that was vacated with the graduation loss of Derrick Nix.
â€śI definitely know he’s made progress. It’s not like he’s living in there, but he’s spending so much more time in the gym than he used to,â€ť Izzo said. â€śI think this is gonna benefit him a lot.â€ť
GAINING TRUST: Gauna said one of the things coaches have stressed that they want from him this season as a veteran is â€śreliability and accountability.â€ť He feels that will lead to more playing time than the 5.5 minutes a game he’s averaged over his first two seasons.
He said he feels like he’s closer to that point now than he has been, with the potential of a starting job as his carrot.
â€śI wouldn’t have come here if I wanted to play five minutes,â€ť Gauna said. â€śThat’s a huge role for me, and that’s what I want to be doing. Either at the beginning of the season or at the end of the season â€“ whichever comes first â€“ I want to be able to establish myself as one of the prime-time players on this team.â€ť
PREVIOUS PLAYER PROFILES
Quick hits from Tom Izzo on the Spartans’ roster.