After COVID-related hiatus, Michigan State men's basketball returns to full practice

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Michigan State is one step closer to getting back in action.

The Spartans went through a standard team practice on Monday, the first workouts that weren’t limited to small groups and individuals since a small COVID-19 outbreak began just more than two weeks ago. The last time the Spartans held a team practice was Jan. 13.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo during a timeout in the first half.

Barring any setbacks in testing, it means Michigan State (8-4, 2-4 Big Ten) is likely to return to game action on Thursday when it is scheduled to play at Rutgers.

Michigan State hasn’t played since a Jan. 8 loss at home to Purdue. Two days later, on Jan. 10, freshman Mady Sissoko tested positive while sophomore guard Steven Izzo tested positive on Jan. 11. Just before the Spartans were set to leave town on Jan. 13 for a scheduled game at Iowa on Jan. 14, senior Joshua Langford tested positive, leading to the postponement of the Iowa game.

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A day later, the scheduled home game against Indiana on Jan. 17 was also postponed. At the time, Izzo hoped Michigan State would be able to play its next game, scheduled for Jan. 23 at home against Illinois. But on Jan. 18, the team announced three more positive tests —walk-on freshman Davis Smith as well as strength coach Marshall Repp and graduate assistant Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

Those test results forced the postponement of the Illinois game. Since then, Michigan State has been practicing in small groups while each of the players who tested positive remained in isolation.

“We will only return to practice as a team when they tell us it's safe for our players, and my staff,” Izzo said last week. “As of right now, there will be no shut down here. I can't even call it a pause. We had to postpone a couple games for the safety and well-being of not only our players but the players on the other team.”

Whether any of the four players who recently tested positive practiced Monday is unclear. Those who test positive are required to isolate for 10 days and be out of game action at least 17 days from their positive tests, per Big Ten protocols. While Smith is still in isolation, there’s a chance Sissoko, Izzo and Langford could have taken part in some sort of activity.

In addition to the most recent cases, Izzo confirmed last week that eight other players had tested positive from the time they returned to campus for workouts in the late summer to before the season began in November, meaning 12 of the 15 players on the roster have tested positive at some point.

Michigan’s entire athletic department is currently shut down while Nebraska’s men’s basketball team is in the midst of its own shutdown. Penn State had four games postponed earlier this season because of its own COVID issues.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau