Tom Izzo hopes Michigan State's mix of veterans, freshmen can make up for NBA draft losses
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State saw one of the best NBA drafts in school history last week, when Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges were both picked in the draft lottery.
Back in East Lansing, the Spartans will now be moving on without them.
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In a series of post-draft radio interviews, Spartans coach Tom Izzo gave some of his first assessments of his new team.
"We've got some depth, but I think the main part is going to come from those veterans who have been playing," Izzo said on 96.1-FM in Grand Rapids. "We're finally going to have some juniors now and even a senior or two."
Izzo highlighted the return of three junior starters in Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward. That trio now has 210 combined games of college experience with 152 total starts between them. In the gym this summer, Izzo has seen what a difference that experience makes.
"The difference for Nick and Cash and Josh starting as freshmen kind of and now starting to be juniors, it makes a big difference," Izzo said on 92.1-FM in Lansing. "I watch Cassius now and it's just a different player at a different speed, there's a different calmness to him. He's having a heck of a spring."
Matt McQuaid is also expected to join the starting lineup as a senior this fall, and Izzo had high praise for senior forward Kenny Goins and his improved shooting ability.
Joining that veteran group will be a five-member freshmen class. That group has now been on campus for nearly a month going through workouts.
Izzo said he isn't sure if any of those five will be able to crack the starting line up as freshmen, but did give a name he thinks most likely to be in the Spartans' playing group: wing Aaron Henry.
Henry is the second-lowest rated of the Spartans' five recruits and was the last among the group to receive a scholarship offer and to commit.
But Izzo said Henry arrived on campus the most ready to contribute, measuring at 6-6, 215 pounds upon his arrival.
"I'd say if there's someone that's going to be in that seven, eight-man rotation right away, I would say it's Aaron Henry because he's physically and mentally maybe the best and the most ready to step in, but there's still a lot of time between now and November," Izzo said.
Izzo said the Spartans' basketball staff is working with Marcus Bingham, Foster Loyer and Gabe Brown to gain weight (he joked he wants Bingham to put on 100 pounds before the start of the season.)
That group has big shoes to fill with two departed lottery picks and three other departed seniors, but Izzo hopes the combination of freshmen and experience can help offset those losses.
"I think this team has a chance to be very good despite those losses," Izzo said.
This article is written by Kyle Austin from MLive.com, Walker, Mich. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.