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Tom Izzo tries to keep Michigan State sharp during time away from games

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

For almost two weeks, Michigan State was unable to have a full team practice.

Once senior Joshua Langford tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 13, the Spartans went into a mini-shutdown, limiting practices and workouts to small groups and individuals as the positive tests began to mount.

Malik Hall and Michigan State returned to action Thursday at Rutgers.

By the start of this week, four players and at least three staff members had all tested positive, an unfortunate stretch that led to three games being postponed. The Spartans get back to action Thursday night at Rutgers — their first game in 20 days — but working through the downtime was difficult for most.

With some in isolation and the assistant coaches staying away from the building, it left head coach Tom Izzo — he dealt with the coronavirus in November — and one graduate assistant to keep the rest of the roster sharp, or at least as sharp as they could.

It wasn’t easy after the team took a few days off following Langford’s positive test, but Izzo made sure to work the players as hard as he could.

“It was good to get back in the gym,” junior Joey Hauser said. “It had been I don't know how many days that we were sitting out until we finally did work out, so we were all pretty tired. But he brought the energy right away and he looked at this time off as not a time to sit and kind of mope around, but it's time to get better and really get ready for when we obviously we want to go on a run and win some games here.

“I think that's what we did during this time, is get better mentally prepared. (The break) kind of let our minds rest a little bit. Our bodies, too, but now we're ready to go out there and attack.”

Nothing can replace an entire team getting on the court together, and while Michigan State was back to a standard team practice Monday, it’s still without junior Gabe Brown and walk-on Davis Smith, who were still in isolation after their positive tests.

But with Izzo diving in and taking the reins, it certainly wasn’t wasted time.

“It was definitely interesting because when we do individuals, he's never really down there,” sophomore Malik Hall said of Izzo. “So, having him down there, he definitely pushed us really, really hard. And it was fun, honestly. It was a great workout.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau