It has been more than two weeks since the Spartans were booted out of the Final Four, and this time away has allowed me to regroup and collect my thoughts. This season has left me, and other basketball “experts” that followed this team, quite scatterbrained. The highs were incredibly high, and the lows brought on feelings of despair, loneliness and self-doubt.
Now it’s time to look back at the season that was, and grade each class based on performance and contribution to the team. The freshman class is up first.
Coming into the season, this group was largely viewed as second options when Izzo missed out on big recruits like Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. But this scrappy bunch outplayed expectations and has a bright future for the green and white.
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. – 39 games, 19.4 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 2.4 APG, 31.8% FG
Tum Tum’s impact on this team transcends the stat sheet. His numbers are unimpressive at first glance, but if you watched him on the court you saw just how big his impact was.
Nairn started 19 games this season and ran the point the best out of all the other guards. He was incredibly poised for a freshman and his lightning speed made the offense run much smoother.
When Coach Izzo replaced Travis Trice with Tum Tum in the starting lineup after the Illinois loss, the team found new life and started their improbable run.
For all the good that Tum Tum did, he still has a lot of room for improvement. His jump shot is woeful, and opposing defenses sag off him when he has the ball. He needs to make teams at least respect his jump shot to open up the lane so he can drive to the basket and draw fouls.
Overall, Tum Tum played much more than anyone expected in his freshman season and had a positive impact on the team. His leadership skills are far beyond his years, and he could even become the next great leader in MSU basketball history.
Final grade – B+
Marvin Clark Jr. – 39 games, 11.2 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 50.4% FG
The southpaw from Kansas City, Missouri had an up and down season. At times, he played a major role in the rotation and stretched defenses out with his sneaky 3-point shooting. At other times, he completely disappeared and made no visible contributions. But Clark hit his stride toward the end of the year and solidified his role off the bench.
In the Regional Final against Louisville, Clark was forced to play power forward after both Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling fouled out in overtime. Standing a mere 6-foot-6, the Cardinal forwards towered over him and Branden Dawson in the paint. The diminutive duo proceeded to shut down Louisville’s stud and National Power Forward of the Year Montrezl Harrell en route to a birth in the Final Four.
Clark’s outside touch provided a much-needed spark off the bench and his timely rebounding was key down the stretch. Even though he caused Izzo great pain at times, Clark played meaningful minutes and set the bar high for his sophomore campaign.
He’s got great potential, and my colleague Andrew Hayes even said he could be an All-American someday. An endorsement from Hayes does not come easily, so Clark better live up to expectations.
Final grade – B
Javon Bess – 12 games, 12.3 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 47.8% FG
Bess got off to a late start after he injured his foot and was forced to miss the first month of the season. The 6-foot-5 forward played solid basketball in his next 12 games, even getting the start three times. But the pain kept lingering in his foot and was forced to shut it down for the remainder of the season.
His shining moment came at Nebraska, where he put up nine points and grabbed five rebounds in the two-point loss. Bess showed not only that he was an above average to great defender, but he could also score when called upon. It’s a shame that a year of his eligibility is gone, but Bess figures to be a main part of the rotation in the future.
Final grade – NA
ARTICLE FROM: http://impact89fm.org/sports/year-in-review-grading-the-freshman-class/