Nairn excited to be pain-free for the Spartans

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Washington — By the end of last season, Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn had played 28 games, starting 18.

For the doctors and training staff at Michigan State, it was a wonder Nairn ever managed to play one. That’s how painful it can be to play basketball with plantar fasciitis.

But instead of sit — something that might have benefited him — Nairn chose to play.

“To tell you truth, I played that year for my teammates,” Nairn said at Big Ten media day Thursday. “I played through that for Matt (Costello) and Zell (Denzel Valentine) and I knew that it was the last time I would play with them. I don’t look at it as hurting myself by doing it, I was doing it for people I care about.”

Nairn started the first 18 games before coach Tom Izzo forced him to sit. But that lasted seven games before Nairn forced himself back on the floor.

While the injury suffered last summer kept Nairn from working on his offense, he still had value as a defender and leader.

But, as Nairn admitted, the grind of playing through the injury took a bigger toll on him mentally.

“I have a really high pain tolerance,” Nairn said. “But I beat myself up mentally. Every day I had to come in and fight through it for practice, then I had to fight through it for a game. On top of that I couldn’t work on my game. I was doing nothing but practicing and walking around in a boot, every single day. So that dragged me mentally.”

With a new season four weeks away, however, the junior is pain-free.

A week after last season ended, Nairn had a procedure on his foot that used ultrasound to help it heal. And after eight weeks off the court, Nairn was pain-free and back in the gym.

Now he’s looking forward to a season that includes a trip to his native Bahamas, when Michigan State plays in the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving.

“It’s only a month away but it’s going to be emotional,” Nairn said. “I have to keep my composure. It’s not every day you get to do this. It’s special. In moments like this, you want to cherish it and make the most of it, but you gotta focus on the games, too. But that means more to me than any game, just being able to play in front of my family.”

Ward in line for more time

Michigan State’s first game is still a few weeks away, but Izzo already is thinking about starting lineups and rotation.

Of course, it’s been a bit harder with the news graduate transfer Ben Carter will be out with a knee injury and sophomore forward Kenny Goins still working back from offseason knee surgery.

“I think he’s going to have surgery here in the next day or two and we’ll kind of know more,” Izzo said. “But it’s not going to make us real big. We’re probably going to play a center, a point guard and three guys that can run, shoot and do some things.

“So who is going to pick up his minutes? I think Kenny Goins is going to get more minutes, but no question that Nick Ward’s going to play more than we thought he would play. ... Nick’s played awfully well. He’s been a little better than we thought.”

Ward is part of the standout freshman class that includes forward Miles Bridges and guards Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston. Add in seniors Gavin Schilling and Eron Harris, along with Nairn and sophomore guard Matt McQuaid, and there are lots of combinations for Izzo.