Tom Izzo talks about the Spartans' depth, upcoming schedule. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — The frontcourt depth Michigan State entered the season with is quickly getting tested.
The Spartans announced on Thursday that junior Kenny Goins will be “out of action for a couple weeks after suffering a mild sprain of his left knee.”
It’s the same knee Goins injured in February of 2016 that forced him to miss eight games before he returned for the NCAA Tournament. He then missed the bulk of the following summer as he recovered before appearing in all 35 games in 2016-17.
“Kenny played pretty well in the last game and I feel bad for Kenny,” coach Tom Izzo said after practice on Thursday. “But it’s just a little tweak and it’s gonna probably be two, two-and-a-half weeks. It’s kind of like what Denzel (Valentine) went through a little bit. So, hopefully it won’t be too long because the problem is we’ve got those six games in 13 days, but we’ve got enough depth.”
That stretch of games begins Sunday when No. 2 Michigan State hosts Stony Brook before heading to Portland next week for the PK80 Classic. The Spartans open with Depaul, will face either Oregon or UConn in the second game and could see North Carolina in the final game.
Then it’s back home for a date with Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before opening Big Ten play at home against Nebraska on Dec. 3.
It means more minutes for freshman Xavier Tillman and senior Ben Carter, though Carter is still limited a bit as he works his way back from the knee injury that kept him out last season.
MSU players Jaren Jackson Jr., Cassius Winston, Ben Carter on the state of the Spartans. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
“You wonder why you have depth, this is why you have depth,” Izzo said. “It means we’ll get a little bit more out of Carter, but we’re still limited on how much we can play him. But it gives a little more of a chance for Gavin (Schilling) if he stays out of foul trouble, and Xavier. This is Xavier’s chance to move up a little bit.”
Goins had four points and three rebounds in 15 minutes in the loss to Duke while Carter had two points in 13 minutes.
Carter understands his role will grow, but he’s also aware he can’t just jump in and play extended minutes just yet.
“I still need to work on my individual conditioning and get in better shape,” he said. “It’s been a process for me still being relatively fresh off my injury. I’ve only been cleared for about a month and a half, so just getting in better shape and pushing myself in practice and preparing for more minutes.
“I’m not necessarily on a minute restriction, it’s more just being safe and being careful with me. I’m just coming off two major knee injuries so they can’t just throw me into the fire and expect to play 25, 30 minutes. It’s something where I need to get in better shape, continue to get my confidence back, my feel and rhythm for the game back.”
The challenge for Izzo is to keep figuring out a rotation, one that was already challenging and will continue to be over the next few weeks.
“It’s a bump in the road but it also slows our progress,” Izzo said. “We’re trying to get in a rhythm and trying to get a true rotation, especially when we’ve got a lot of guys. Sometimes coaches will say it’s easier when you’ve got seven. I don’t believe that. I just feel bad for the kid. He worked hard to get back.
“It’s not anything that’s a setback, it will just delay it a few days and hopefully we get through those games.”