Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about the No. 1 Spartans facing No. 2 Kentucky to open the season in the Champions Classic. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing – Michigan State likely will get one player back for Tuesday night’s matchup with Kentucky, but it’s still waiting on the status of another.
Coach Tom Izzo said on Monday that fifth-year senior Kyle Ahrens will play when No. 1 Michigan State takes on No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York, but transfer Joey Hauser will not.
Ahrens has been dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered during a closed scrimmage against Gonzaga back on Oct. 19. He will play on Tuesday, though Izzo isn’t sure how much.
As for Hauser, the wait continues as Michigan State awaits word from the NCAA. The Spartans applied for a waiver that would make the 6-foot-9 forward immediately eligible but were denied. They are now in the process of appealing that decision, one that now won’t come before the season begins.
“Everybody would just as soon it be over with,” Izzo said about the Hauser appeal. “He will not play tomorrow. I know that for a fact, and I'm hoping that by the end of this week we'll have our final answer one way or another.”
Izzo hasn’t been willing to guess whether or not the appeal will be granted, noting that similar appeals around the nation have been going both ways over the past couple of weeks.
As for Ahrens, determining his playing time will be a collaborative effort.
“I'm going to manage it by talking to Kyle,” Izzo said. “See how he feels and how he plays, but God, he had a hell of a summer. I mean, he was really, really good and if you saw the injury, the way it happened, he was running out of bounds and there was nobody near him. We have weird injuries. He runs out of bounds and the other day (Thomas) Kithier is running down the court and Julius (Marble) kind of half fell and came up with his elbow and hit him in the nose broke his nose.
MSU's Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry talk about the Spartans taking on No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
“It is what it is. I've watched football go through so many injuries in the last two years. I've watched other teams go through injuries. I’m not practicing different. I mean, we're going to use our heads on what we gotta do, but I'm really going to use the player and the trainers (input) on what I do.”
Izzo said Kithier, who will play with a protective mask, is likely to start at power forward, as he did in the exhibition win over Albion. Freshman Rocket Watts will also remain in the starting lineup at shooting guard, joining Cassius Winston, Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman.