Izzo: Davis has huge potential, must learn to work harder

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
From left, Spartan freshmen Matt McQuaid, Deyonta Davis and and Kyle Ahrens are pictured at media day.

East Lansing — Michigan State freshman Deyonta Davis came to campus with plenty of hype.

The 6-foot-10 product of Muskegon was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball last season and a McDonald’s All-American who averaged 18.3 points, 15.2 rebounds and 6.7 blocks as a senior, leading his high school team to a spot in the state quarterfinals. That came a year after he scored 15 points and grabbed 13.6 rebounds a game when Muskegon won a Class A state championship.

But on Tuesday at Michigan State’s media day, coach Tom Izzo offered up an even more impressive observation of his prized freshman.

“He could be one of the most talented big men we’ve ever had,” Izzo said. “He’s in the Paul Davis mold.”

That’s pretty high praise considering Davis is the ninth-leading scorer in Michigan State history, with 1,718 points from 2002-06.

But that’s not to say Davis doesn’t have work to do. He’ll have to learn to adjust to life with Izzo, and that means getting pushed constantly. Izzo said “99 percent of freshman big men” in college basketball deal with the same issue.

“He’s just got to learn how to go hard every day,” Izzo said. “That’s going to determine his playing time.”

Senior captain Matt Costello doesn’t think that will be a problem for Davis.

“He’s gonna be good,” Costello said, shaking his head. “You’ll all just have to see.”

Costello and junior Gavin Schilling have been spending plenty of time working with Davis, and senior Denzel Valentine roomed with Davis on the team’s trip to Italy.

It has all been in an effort to get Davis ready to play at a high level early in his career. That will be aided by his raw ability, according to Costello, who wouldn’t take any credit for Davis’ development.

“That is because of God right there,” Costello said. “God made that and he did a good job with that one.”

‘Out of the boot’ soon

Sophomore forward Marvin Clark Jr. said he is right on schedule in his recovery from left foot surgery he underwent in late September. A screw was placed in Clark’s foot, and he is counting down the days until he can get rid of his walking boot for good.

“Sunday will be six weeks and I’m out of the boot,” Clark said. “I’m able to walk and hour or two a day without it, and that’s usually when I’ll practice. Yesterday I got up some shots and was squatting on one leg and working on explosion and balance. The process is going great and hopefully in a few weeks it will be to where I can practice.”

Clark played well in Michigan State’s postseason run, and Izzo said he was penciled in as the starting power forward before the injury. Now the chances for Clark being back for the Kansas game Nov. 17 are slim, though he’s remained positive after some early struggles.

“At first I was a little down because this was supposed to be the year I break out,” Clark said. “I made some big strides toward the end of last year and I had a lot of momentum going into this year.

“It’s unfortunate this happened but at the same time things happen for a reason and I feel like from being out and watching from a coach’s perspective I’m seeing mistakes I made last year and what I can do to fix them.”

Bess ‘feeling good’

A foot injury allowed Javon Bess to play in only 12 games last season, but the sophomore says he’s 100 percent heading into his second season with the Spartans.

“Right now I’m feeling good,” Bess said. “The biggest thing is I’m still getting my feel back, being balanced going to rim … just feel-type things right now.”

Bess actually underwent two surgeries last year. The first came before the season, but after he played 12 games, it wasn’t healing properly and the second surgery knocked him out for the final 17 games.

This season, Bess is working at multiple positions and is ready to fulfill whatever role Izzo has for him.

“Last year I did what I could,” Bess said. “But in the 12 games my foot was really still broken. They said it never healed. So (fans got) just a glimpse last year.”

Slam dunks

Michigan State returns nine of its top 11 scorers from last season’s team. The Spartans also return 63.3 percent of their scoring, 66.9 percent of their rebounding and 60.4 percent of their assists. Eight returning players started at least one game in 2014-15, including four who started at least 17 games.

… Including potential opponents in the Wooden Legacy, 11 of Michigan State’s 17 nonconference opponents competed in the 2015 postseason, including seven in the NCAA Tournament. Including Big Ten opponents, 18 of Michigan State’s 31 regular-season games will be played against teams that competed in the postseason last year.