Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about playing No. 1 Kansas in the Champions Classic, as well as his own team. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing – Redshirting doesn’t happen often these days in college basketball and it doesn’t look like Michigan State’s Marcus Bingham Jr. will be one of the few.
The 6-foot-11 freshman forward checks in at just 211 pounds and still lacks the strength needed to play against other big men in the Big Ten and at the top teams in the nation. One such opponent is No. 1 Kansas, which No. 10 Michigan State plays on Tuesday in the Champions Classic.
It was enough of an issue that coach Tom Izzo had been contemplating a redshirt for the offensively-skilled bag man from Grand Rapids Catholic Central. However, that decision has essentially been made.
“I’m 99 percent sure I’m not gonna redshirt him,” Izzo said Monday. “He’s kind of a unique kid. My reasons for redshirting aren’t always because he’s not ready to play yet, because he’s not on the defensive end. He is ready on the offensive end. More importantly it’s on academics and trying to get stronger and bigger. What I don’t want is a freshman sitting there getting frustrated.
“If I get there tomorrow night and don't play him for whatever reasons, I'll have another few days to look at it. But it will always be his decision.”
Izzo said Bingham doesn’t want to redshirt, which is the feeling of nearly every freshman. And that, alone, is a big reason Izzo says he’s likely going to use Bingham this season.
“For me to redshirt a kid, he’s gotta want to do it. And I’m not sure he’s there yet,” Izzo said. “And I’ll be honest with you, the last couple practices, I’m not sure I’m there yet. Especially when there’s one thing we’re lacking right now and it’s size.”
Bingham struggled in Michigan State’s scrimmage against No. 3 Gonzaga but flashed his skill in the exhibition win over Northern Michigan, scoring 11 straight points in the second half, a stretch that included two 3-pointers and a put-back dunk.
“Going off the game against Northern Michigan where he looked like a poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor-poor man's Kevin Durant,” Izzo said, “then looking at him at Gonzaga where they had a bunch of fourth- and fifth-year solid post players, he struggled.
“He’s up to 211 and that’s a lot of weight gain for him. But, again, he’s got a long way to go to make that good enough to survive.”
Former Spartan Miles Bridges became a father last week as his son, Ace, was born. Bridges posted photos on social media and he talked with some of his Michigan State teammates as well as Izzo.
“I just asked him one question,” Izzo said. “He said, ‘Coach, he’s gonna be ready for you in 18 years.’ I said I didn’t care about that, ‘Can he dunk? If he can’t dunk I don’t want him.’ He can’t dunk so I guess I’m not taking him.’”
John Niyo, James Hawkins and Matt Charboneau preview the Michigan State and Michigan college basketball seasons. The Detroit News, The Detroit News
While joking with Bridges, Izzo has also been keeping up with plenty of his former players in the NBA, including Jaren Jackson (Memphis), Gary Harris (Denver) and Draymond Green (Golden State).
“Miles is doing well and I’m glad everything went well for him," Izzo said. "Jaren is doing well, Gary is leading his team in scoring and I talked to Draymond yesterday. All the guys call before the first game and that’s pretty awesome, too. They’re all excited and all doing pretty well too, including Ace.”