East Lansing – As Michigan State awaits a decision from No. 1 recruit Josh Jackson, its roster for 2016-17 was shuffled significantly on Monday.
The school announced sophomore forwards Marvin Clark and Javon Bess both intend to transfer at the end of the semester.
“We wish Javon and Marvin nothing but the best in their careers,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “Javon battled through injuries as a freshman and Marvin had similar adversity this year, but I’m confident they both have bright futures. I’m going to do whatever I can to help them find the right fit moving forward.”
Clark, a 6-foot-6 forward, and Bess, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, were both part of the 2014 recruiting class that included guard Tum Tum Nairn. Both were hampered by injuries, however, as Bess arrived with a foot injury that eventually required surgery and allowed him to play only 12 games as a freshman in 2015-16.
Clark’s problems came this past offseason when a stress fracture in his foot required surgery and slowed him for the first half of the season. But late in the year, Clark took advantage of an injury to redshirt freshman Kenny Goins and started to regain the form he had when he helped Michigan State reach the Final Four in 2015.
In this year’s Big Ten tournament, Clark was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and played double-digit minutes in all three games. Clark appeared in 69 career games and started eight, averaging 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds.
“I want to say that nothing can replace the experiences I gained while playing for Coach Izzo,” Clark said in a statement. “I’ll always love and respect him for giving me the opportunity to put on a Spartan uniform. With that said, I do feel it’s in my best interests to find a new home to continue my college career.
“My time here has been unbelievable. From Spartan Nation supporting me and giving life to us on a nightly basis, to the teachings of the coaching staff and finally my teammates and the bonds of brotherhood we’ve developed, it’s been a great experience.”
Bess looked to be completely over his foot injury when the 2015-16 season began, starting the first 13 games. But as Michigan State started to go to a bigger lineup that included the emergence of freshman Deyonta Davis, Bess’ minutes plummeted.
He played double-digit minutes just once in the final 15 games and did not play in three Big Ten games.
“My two years at Michigan State have been full of great memories and relationships that will last a lifetime,” Bess said in a statement. “But after some great meetings with Coach Izzo following the season, I believe it’s in my best interests to seek an expanded role as I look elsewhere to continue my basketball career. I’d like to thank my teammates and coaches for all they’ve done for me. And a special thank you to Spartan fans for their support over the last two seasons.”
The departure of Clark and Bess frees up two scholarships for next season, leaving one open for Jackson if he chooses to play at Michigan State and one for Goins, a walk-on who earned a scholarship last season and became a key part of the rotation.
It does hurt Michigan State’s depth and experience, however. The Spartans have the No. 3 recruiting class already signed with guard/forward Miles Bridges, guard Joshua Langford, guard Cassius Winston and forward Nick Ward already signed. They join seniors Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis, along with Nairn, a junior, and sophomore guard Matt McQuaid as returning players with significant experience.
The biggest variable for next season, outside of whether Jackson chooses Michigan State over Arizona and Kansas, is the status of Davis. He is projected as a first-round pick if he leaves early for the NBA but he has yet to make a decision.