Michigan State Basketball: Offseason Stock Watch for Spartans' Top Players
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Regroup, reload and get back to business.
That's the way Tom Izzo runs Michigan State basketball.
But before the Spartans can do that, taking a look at what their stars have done—or are doing—during the offseason is necessary.
These guys don't simply find a local gym and shoot baskets until it's time to suit up again. Their off-time is anything but leisurely workout sessions and pickup ball.
Adreian Payne played for Team USA during the University Games in Russia. Gary Harris rehabbed his shoulder, and Keith Appling just got better.
They're not the only three Spartans standouts who are working endlessly to ensure that Michigan State plays up to expectations this season, either.
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Adreian Payne, the Spartans' towering, 6'10" forward/center, didn't play as well as expected during the University Games.
Team USA placed ninth in the tournament, which was disappointing, and Payne didn't put his double-double skills on display. Averaging just over 10 minutes per game, Payne averaged 5.1 points and 3.1 boards.
A lackluster summer doesn't mean Payne's stock fell. If anything, playing against the best international competition makes him more valuable. Now a senior, Payne got a dose of different coaching styles. Izzo can't coach Payne forever, and learning a new approach to the game should prove beneficial.
Izzo said the following about Payne's performance to MLive.com's Mike Griffith:
When he goes to the NBA, that guy (new coach) might stick him in the post, or he might have teammates that are harder to deal with. My thing to him is, 'so now you've had a little adversity. Did you deal with it well?'
I think there's going to be some good out of him struggling. He will have a better appreciation and understanding of things. One of the reasons he didn't leave (school) early, his high school coaches felt he had to mature, and that's adjusting to fouls, officials and teammates.
In the NBA, you never know who you will play for, who is coaching you, what the general managers are like.
Getting knocked around may have been the best thing for Payne, who is projected as a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Suffering a letdown could only make him more ferocious and determined this season. That's great for him, and probably not so great for his opponents.
Gary Harris could contend for player of the year honors in 2013-14.
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As a freshman in 2012, Gary Harris' left shoulder gave him constant problems.
But that didn't stop him from earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Had he left Michigan State, Harris would have probably been taken as a top-15 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, bum shoulder and all.
Now that he's a star sophomore recognized as one of the game's elite shooters, he's ready to get back to work, per his recent interview with NBE Basketball Report's Matt Whitfield.
I’m shooting high. I know our team’s goals are high. We feel like we want to win a national championship and we don’t want anything less than that. I mean, Final Four, that’s great, but we want to win it. I feel like if everybody comes with the right attitude each day in the off-season and regular season that’s a realistic goal.
Harris also elaborated on his offseason schedule, per Whitfield:
[I've been working on] Everything; my ball handling, my shooting, strength – especially in my shoulders trying to get those stronger so I don’t have to worry about anything that happened last year. I’m also working on my conditioning so I can be in better shape later in the season and later in games. And just my all around game.
A pesky dislocation hasn't derailed Harris. His work ethic remains high.
And so does his ceiling.
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Since joining the Spartans, Branden Dawson's stock has been difficult to monitor.
It's clear he's an incredible athlete. At 6'6" and 220 pounds, he's posterized several defenders, and he's proven to be a great rebounder.
However, he still lacks a consistent perimeter game and tends to disappear for stretches. If Michigan State is to truly threaten for a national title, Dawson will have to progress.
Will the junior live up to his hype? Is he the star Spartans followers thought he was? According to MLive.com's Diamond Leung, Dawson posted responses to similar questions on Ask.fm (account deleted).
You don't think I am? I'm in the gym everyday. You'll see the results this season. MARK MY WORD
We're gonna win a national championship. MARK MY WORD
Dawson's social media messages bring about optimism. He'll need to be more vocal when pushing along teammates. Michigan State has a group capable of reaching a Final Four. Having an improved Dawson won't just get the Spartans to Cowboys Stadium; it may also get them to the title game.
Spartans senior PG Keith Appling has a tall order to fill this season.
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In 2012-13, point guard Keith Appling was the only Michigan State player with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.
As a senior, the time is now for Appling to lead his team. And he has to better what was essentially a 1.5:1 clip.
As the primary ball-handler, Appling literally has Michigan State's fate in his hands. He's developed during the offseason. The next step is to translate that progress to the floor.
“I think he is a much, much better point guard [after his work this spring and summer], and even a prospect at the next level," Tom Izzo told SI.com's Andy Glockner.
If there is any position to be concerned about, it's certainly the one that dictates tempo. That's Appling all the way. When efficient, he's one of the better players on the court. When struggling, he fades away.
With another offseason of preparation on his resume, Appling should be ready to take the next step this fall with the Spartans. His stock is ready to soar—but is he?
That's the question.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.