After 26 years you’d think something as simple as the first ‘official’ day of practice for Michigan State’s basketball team would be somewhat of another day at this point for Tom Izzo, but that could not be further from the truth.
When Izzo stepped up to the podium to preview this new year, and his 2020-21 squad on Wednesday morning, he couldn’t help but relish in excitement.
“Saying we’re excited would be an understatement,” said Izzo. “It’s been an incredible seven months for all of us.”
His mentor, and former Spartan coach, Jud Heathcote loved this day. Heathcote even used to say, “The first day of practice is a coaches favorite day of the year.” It’s a saying Izzo brought up, on Wednesday, which led to some more reflection.
“I think it was one of the few days Jud didn’t yell at me, so I always cherished that day myself,” said Izzo. “He was happy that he got to coach his team.”
Of course a lot has changed since Heathcote was at the helm, and Izzo made sure to point it out.
“We didn’t have the summer workouts we have now. We didn’t have the fall workouts like we have now. It doesn’t bring the same light, but I remember those days and I appreciate it. I loved him and I appreciated him so much, and that is sentimental, because a lot of what I do is because of him. Loving the first day of practice is because of him and it reminds me of him.”
It’s certainly and interesting time for Izzo and the Spartans. They began practice on Wednesday without a set schedule in place, other than Izzo stating how he is 99% sure MSU is going to play Duke in the coveted Champions Classic.
Everything else is sort of up in the air at the moment. Similar to the point guard position.
With the departure of Cassius Winston someone is going to have to fill the role and according to Izzo the two leading candidates are sophomore Rocket Watts and junior Foster Loyer.
Izzo said the two are going to be splitting up the playing time to begin the year and he made a point to mention how pleased he is with the progress Loyer made over the summer. Izzo said the 6’0 guard, from Clarkston, is in the best shape of his life, but what’s even better is Izzo is starting to appreciate what he brings to the table.
“You know we always think about what a kid can’t do,” said Izzo. “What he can do? He can shoot it with anybody on our team. He’s learned how to play against quicker guys. I think it’s evident the players respect him. They voted him to be a captain. Those are all big positives.”