Schilling set to join Spartans’ big man rotation
East Lansing — Gavin Schilling went through his first full practice of the regular season Thursday, and the junior center expects to play at least a few minutes in Michigan State’s game at Northeastern on Saturday.
Schilling suffered a turf toe injury on his right foot in the exhibition finale.
“If everything is good tomorrow and I can practice, I’ll definitely get a few minutes,” Schilling said as Michigan State attempts to go 12-0 and match the best start in program history. “We’ll see how I feel out there on Saturday. The plan right now is to play on Saturday.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was a bit more cautious, saying Schilling had about a 40-percent chance of playing.
“He didn’t look bad to me but now it’s about getting the rust off,” Izzo said. “Will he play? I’d say there’s a 40-60 chance he plays some minutes in this game. But it is very encouraging, at least. He is smart and does some things that can really help us.”
Schilling said the toe is taped and he’s wearing two special insoles in his shoes.
The injury wasn’t a standard turf toe — Schilling said the ligaments around his toe were torn and he had trouble walking after he was initially hurt. But he’s slowly worked his way back and went half-speed Tuesday before taking part in the entire practice Thursday.
And, he adds, the time off has helped.
“It’s been about five and a half weeks now,” Schilling said. “It’s been frustrating sitting on the bench, but at the same time I have been learning things and noticing key things sitting on the bench that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was playing.”
How Izzo works Schilling in will be interesting. He has been playing 10 or more players on a regular basis, saying he’d like to narrow the rotation.
Once Schilling is 100 percent, he and Matt Costello will be the main centers, likely freeing freshman Deyonta Davis to play more at power forward with Marvin Clark, who is working back into shape after foot surgery. It could also cut into the minutes for players like Javon Bess and Kenny Goins.
Goodbye to Bo
Izzo said he spoke with Bo Ryan on Thursday, two days after the longtime coach announced he was retiring from Wisconsin and handing over the program to assistant Greg Gard.
“He made me a better coach,” Izzo said. “He had a team that every time you played them you knew you had to beat them because they weren’t gonna beat (themselves). That makes you coach harder, work harder and prepare harder.”
Izzo and Ryan had their battles, especially early during Ryan’s tenure at Wisconsin when he went 10-3 against Izzo, including ending Michigan State’s 53-game home winning streak. That run helped create its share of tension between the two, but that had softened in recent years as Izzo won nine of the next 14 meetings.
“The rivalry is the rivalry,” Izzo said. “But then you get on boards with guys and you do stuff off the court and I just have great respect for him. It will always be a rivalry but I’ve got other rivals that are good friends and I just like the fact he did it his way. He was always honest with everybody and what he felt.
“I’ll miss the fact he was a staple and we’ve had some changes. But I feel good for him because I think he’s happy and he did it his way and for the right reasons.”
Denzel Valentine said it will be strange to play Wisconsin without Ryan on the sidelines.
“He was one of my favorite coaches in the Big Ten,” Valentine said. “Whenever we’d see each other he was always joking around with me and he was a very cool guy to me. I respect him a lot.”