October 15, 2009

Sherman, Nix need to grow up fast

The Michigan State basketball team has the look of a donut right now. There is a hole in the middle.

With Goran Suton, Idong Ibok and Marquise Gray gone, the Spartans lack depth, experience and production from the center position. The Spartans do, however, have several of big, albeit inexperienced, bodies ready to close the hole in the middle.

In Suton, Ibok and Gray, the Spartans lost 15 year of college playing experience. The trio appeared in 380 games and started 162 games during their Spartan careers playing a combined 5,808 minutes during the course of their college careers.

The trio was pivotal during Michigan State's drive to the NCAA title game last year.

Suton finished second on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game last year and led the team in rebounding with 8.4 per game. Gray and Ibok did not put up huge numbers last year, but they did combine for 15 and a half minutes a game and gave the Spartans size and versatility in the paint along with 10 fouls.

"We lost a guy in Suton who was good," Izzo said, "I wouldn't classify as great as far as his production, but every night he was good for 10 or 11 points and eight or nine rebounds. That's the statistical side. On the non-statistical side he was a guy who had a great pulse for this team. He got along with everybody except me. He did a great job of really rallying the troops. Anybody could go talk to him. He was egoless so if a freshman had a problem he could go talk to Suton. He was just one of those guys who just got along with everybody that every team needs.

"And then to go on from there, Gray and Idong will greatly be missed. If you really think of it, which most people haven't, because they weren't statistically great, but there was 15 years, seven or eight minutes a game, 15 years worth of players there in those three guys. They were all fifth-year seniors. There was 15 fouls that those guys had to give, that was sometimes very needed."

Stepping into the shoes of Suton, Ibok and Gray are true freshmen Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman and red-shirt junior Tom Herzog. Although he has been in the program for three years, Herzog has 29 games of experience for a combined 100 minutes of action.

What the green Spartan frontcourt players lack in experience, they make up for in size. Herzog has the most length at 7-0, and 250 pounds. Nix offers plenty of size at 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds. Sherman is a combination of the two at 6-10 and 235 pounds. Sherman, a freshman from Ohio, is also an inside-out threat.

Growing pains are expected from the trio early in season when the Spartans go up against tall, talented front courts like North Carolina, Texas and Gonzaga along with teams like Oakland, Florida and possibly Rutgers or Massachusetts.

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