Michigan State Basketball: 2014 Offseason To-Do List for Spartans
This offseason may be one of the most difficult for Michigan State.
After all, this past go-round wasn't exactly friendly and fuzzy for Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who said multiple times to multiple people that 2013-14 was the most trying stretch of his 19-year head-coaching career.
Making next year a little easier is a must.
So is assigning leadership roles and maybe naming one or two captains. Just a thought.
In all likelihood, Izzo will lose Gary Harris, a sophomore shooting guard, and Branden Dawson, a junior wing, to the NBA draft.
Add in the departure of graduating seniors Keith Appling, a point guard, and Adreian Payne, a multi-skilled big man, Izzo has no choice but to move on to the next ones in line.
It doesn't make sense for Michigan State or Izzo to dwell on the past or ponder "what if Harris stays, what if Dawson stays?" Dedicating resources to the future of the team should yield better results.
The Spartans don't have to retool everything but making a few adjustments in the offseason won't hurt.
Get Travis Trice Ready for No. 1
Travis Trice isn't Michigan State's best player.
In terms of overall skill, he's probably not even one of its top three athletes.
However, by virtue of position, he's certainly one of the most important. The fate of the 2014-15 Spartans, who welcome freshman 1-guard Lourawls "Tum-Tum" Nairn this fall, could rest in his palms.
Displaying a developed sense of awareness, Trice helped lead Michigan State to an appearance in the Elite Eight. He wasn't great against UConn, but leading up to the tournament, he was one of Izzo's best ball-securers, committing three or more turnovers just three times all year.
Just three times!
That may not seem like a groundbreaking stat. Generally speaking, coaches don't give more minutes to ball-handlers who squander possessions. Trice has tightened up, and his career-high averages of 22.3 minutes, 7.3 points and 2.3 assists per game served as proof.
A sneaky scorer, Trice put up 19 points against Delaware in the round of 64; he reached double-digits 12 times during the season and turned in three 15-or-better showings.
That's progress, and Spartans point guards are known for their high-scoring abilities.
Trice isn't. But he can be. The spurt tendency is there.
Getting Trice more comfortable as a leader should be a primary goal for Izzo, who enters his 20th season as the Mayor of East Lansing.
Note: He's not actually the mayor. He's more powerful than that.
Tum-Tum in Training
Nairn is the future of Spartans 1-guards. The former Wichita Sunrise Christian standout is the type of guard Izzo needs, and the type of guard who'll carry on the blue-collar legacy.
At 5'11" and 165 pounds, Nairn needs more time to build a college-ready frame. But his game is ready. In terms of mentality, he's ready.
Check out my interview with Tum-Tum and Sunrise coach Kyle Lindsted (The Great Divide podcast). Tum-Tum seemed to be quite aware of what's on the horizon.
Trice is bound for the top duties, but getting Nairn accustomed to the life wouldn't be a bad idea. Appling got his feet wet as a frosh only to take over and lead a productive career. Nairn could be Appling and then some.
Figure out Matt Costello
Matt Costello's up-and-down play was a dominant topic of discussion in 2013-14. And until he levels out, his inconsistencies will remain in the spotlight.
At 6'9" and 240 pounds, he has the size to do damage in the paint. At times, he looked like Izzo's next bruiser. But then, he'd revert to relaxed mode and basically watch guys dominate him.
As the pillar of the front court, the soon-to-be junior has to get it together or risk being passed by Gavin Schilling, who isn't nearly as physical but possesses better ball skills and scoring touch.
This isn't the kind of bumping Costello wants to be known for:
Matt Costello with a big yell and shoulder bump to maintain his status as top-ranked bench cheerleader in the country.— Jared Sandler (@jsandlerESPN) March 30, 2014
Find Kenny Kaminski's Stroke and Save It
When Kenny Kaminski's on, he's among the best-shooting "bigs" in the Big Ten.
At 6'8" and 225 pounds, he's pretty much a large 2-guard. But he can body-up, so he's efficient in the post and along the baseline as a small forward. As multi-talented as Kaminski is, now it's all about what Izzo will do with him.
Assuming Kaminski stays on Izzo's good side this year, he could become the Spartans' most prolific scoring forward. That's ever. Not lately. Not during the Izzo era.
Tall order? Yes. Bold claim? You bet.
Don't be fooled by his average of 4.9 points per game; he's a double-digit guy waiting to become a consistent double-digit guy.
With 19 points against Penn State, Kaminksi proved he could rule three-point land by hitting 5-of-6 attempts. He contributed 15 points against Minnesota, which was good but not great, and 10 against Georgetown, which wasn't good but still beat the Spartans 64-60 at Madison Square Garden (MSU was 0-2 at MSG this past year).
Doesn't sound like a whole lot, does it?
But considering this was Kaminski's first full season, he did just fine. Building upon that is definitely a to-do for Izzo, who hasn't had such a shooter since A.J. Granger, who was part of the 2000 national-title push.
Denzel, Denzel, Denzel
Athletically, the Spartans stand to lose a substantial amount of power, especially if Dawson goes pro.
At 6'5" and 220 pounds, Denzel Valentine shoots better than Dawson and passes better. However, he doesn't dunk better, nor does he hold an edge in rebounding.
That has to change. Valentine will play the point, but he'll probably be asked to fill in for Dawson and do some of the same things, while also playing the role of a traditional 2-guard.
It's nice to have options, and Izzo has them with Valentine, a Lansing-bred product out of Sexton High School.
In 2013-14, Valentine finished with a line of eight points, six rebounds and four assists per outing (OK, so it was 3.8 APG, if you want to be technical). Imagine a 10/10/5 guy. Izzo hasn't had many, if any, of those during his time at Michigan State.
Valentine is on the cusp of doing something that's (maybe) never been done before. At the very least, he's on his way to becoming a complete player.
He just has to find a way to bounce mistakes.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81