18th January 17:25
Izzo camps out overnight with students
MSU's mission: Cut nets, end title drought
Spartans hungry for championships
October 15, 2003
BY JEMELE HILL
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
EAST LANSING -- Tom Izzo already is one of the most beloved figures in
Michigan, so why did he feel the need to spend the night with students
trying to get tickets to Michigan State basketball games?
"I legitimately enjoy the little things, and I miss them sometimes,"
explained Izzo, the MSU coach.
Not only did he spend the night at Munn Field with students camping
out for tickets in the Izzone section at the Breslin Center, he played
soccer with them. Izzo also brought a 140-inch television and
satellite dish so they could watch football games last Saturday, and
he talked with a good chunk of the 400 students there.
"We watched all the football games, watched some movies, some
highlights," said Izzo, 48. "Then about 1:30 we went to bed and the
wind came about 3:30 and blew over some tents. Then at 5 o'clock it
started raining and then at 7, Krispy Kreme came in with 1,000
doughnuts and made it all better."
This grassroots approach is typical of Izzo and symbolizes how his
team needs to prepare for the upcoming season. The Spartans begin
practice at midnight Friday at the Breslin Center, and Izzo wants them
to know what their predecessors did to win a national championship and
four straight Big Ten titles.
Two seasons have passed without a significant championship.
"We see it as a challenge to pass on what we learned to the guys who
haven't won a championship," said senior center Jason Andreas, the
only member of the 2000 national title team still at MSU. "That's our
motto this year -- cut them down. Obviously, cutting the nets down.
"We're hungry this year. Two years ago, we had a pretty disappointing
"With us in the Elite Eight, that adds to the hunger and the
Michigan State reached the NCAA Elite Eight last season after tying
for third in the Big Ten and losing in the semifinals of the
"That's what I came here for," junior Alan Anderson said of the Big
Ten and national championships. "I haven't accomplished anything. We
made it to the Elite Eight last year, and that's great. But MSU is not
satisfied with winning games. We're satisfied with winning
Anderson and fellow guards Chris Hill and Kelvin Torbert all were
recruited with the expectation that they would win titles, much like
former players Ma**** Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell and Andre
Hutson. Those four were part of national championship and Big Ten
This season, the expectations are even greater for Hill, Torbert and
Anderson. The Spartans are picked in the top five in some preseason
"They're telling me how hard they worked this summer," Izzo said
Tuesday on MSU's media day. "I usually remind them to step upstairs
and look at the championship trophy and the eight rings that are on
that thing and let them know they haven't won one."
The Spartans' prospects are promising, even though they play one of
the toughest schedules in the nation.
Their opponents include seven of the top 10 schools in all-time
victories, eight conference champions and 14 teams that played in a
postseason tournament last spring. Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky,
UCLA and Syracuse are on the schedule, and then come the Big Ten
"I just want to make it clear that we're doing this because I'm a
selfish S.O.B.," Izzo said. "I want to get something out of my career
at Michigan State. I want to make sure the players that I promised
that we will play the best, that they will be on TV and they'll get a
chance to go against the best. I want to make sure I uphold my promise
"This university has been very good to me. I want to make sure I take
care of them. There's a lot of reason and things that go into this
Despite the schedule, Michigan State has just about everything it
needs to compete for a title. Torbert, Anderson and Hill have averaged
at least 26 minutes a game in their two seasons at MSU, and they're
joined by surging sophomores Paul Davis and Maurice Ager and blue-chip
freshmen Shannon Brown and Brandon Cotton.
About the only thing the Spartans lack is frontline experience. Erazem
Lorbek, one of the team's top scorers in the NCAA tournament last
season, unexpectedly departed for the pros after one season, leaving
Davis and career reserve Andreas as the only experienced post players.
But Davis and Ager were two of the best college players this summer,
putting up strong numbers for the U.S. team at the junior world
championships. Davis, a Wooden preseason All-America, averaged 17.7
points and 8.7 rebounds. Ager averaged 6.6 points and three rebounds.
"There's definitely going to be a lot of pressure on me," Davis said.
"Some people say the post is a weakness because of the inexperience,
but we're ready to prove them wrong."
Contact JEMELE HILL at 313-223-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.