'Everything is in a state of flux': Tom Izzo, Michigan State await key player decisions

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Like everyone else these days, Tom Izzo is doing his best to fight through uncertain times, finding ways to remain productive and have a purpose.

For the Michigan State coach, that means getting in a daily workout or walk around the neighborhood, doing his best to keep recruiting in a virtual world and helping out around the house. On Wednesday, that meant power washing the deck.

Tom Izzo

What the rest of the week held, who knows? But Izzo and his wife, Lupe, are doing their best.

“In general it’s the Groundhog Day stuff,” Izzo said on the Green Room Podcast. “Just getting up and trying to find a purpose in each day is what I’m trying to do and what everybody is trying to do that. I said to Lupe, ‘We have to have something each day that we accomplish so we feel that when the day is over we’ve done something.’ … Today it was my deck and power washing and when it got done, it looked good. Today, I actually took my first round of golf. I went nine holes with my son, Steven, and that was kind of enjoyable.”

While working around the house is one thing, Izzo is primarily trying to manage his team in unprecedented times. He and his staff have been continuing to recruit and work on adding another player to the 2020 class while managing a roster that remains in flux because two players — Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry — are contemplating a move to the NBA.

Timeframes have been thrown out of whack by the COVID-19 pandemic as the NBA Combine has been postponed, the draft is likely to follow suit and the NCAA has extended the date in which players must decide whether they will return to school or remain draft eligible.

“Everything is in a state of flux,” Izzo said. “That’s the hardest thing.”

When it comes to Tillman and Henry, Izzo understands the current state of things makes it hard. Tillman, who will be a senior next season if he returns, is being projected as potentially a late-first round pick.

“The problem right now is it’s hard for them (to be evaluated),” Izzo said. “But they’ve seen these kids all year long. With all the new rules coming out and the G League, it’s hard to say what people are looking for. I get a lot of answers from a lot of people and none of them make a lot of sense to me, but I think Xavier will make the most educated decision you could make. But I don’t know what that is right now, meaning not whether he stays or goes, but I don’t know how he figures out what the most educated decision is. For that, I feel bad for him.”

Henry hasn’t shown up on many mock drafts and appears to be falling closer to the category of returning for what would be his junior season at Michigan State.

“I talked to one team that said last year they interviewed 167 underclassmen,” Izzo said. “Just think about that. It’s mind boggling. In Aaron’s case or somebody else’s case, every agent, every team tells you this, it only takes one team to like you. What worries me is what happens to these guys while they’re going through this pandemic era? It makes it really hard on these guys to try and get evaluated and make the right decisions.”

Tillman and Henry aren’t the only variables for next season. Joshua Langford, who has missed the better part of the last two seasons with a foot injury is contemplating his future. While Langford has been unable to visit his surgeon in New York for an update on his foot, there has been correspondence.

The door is open for Langford to return or to move on.

“I think we’ll know more in the next month, month and a half,” Izzo said. “Hopefully by the end of June we’ll have a better idea where he’s at. He’s a great kid and was dealt a bad set of cards. There’d be nothing better if Josh could have some success. If it’s here, great.

“It’s too early for me to say, but I think I’m seeing a ray of hope that he’s feeling better about himself and that’s critical.”

As for Cassius Winston, Izzo said every team he’s talked to about his now former point guard is “very high” on the Big Ten’s all-time assists leader.

“I think teams are staring to find out, quit worrying about what he can’t do,” Izzo said. “Because he can’t dunk doesn’t mean he can’t play, and start realizing what he can do. Look at his record. Look at what he’s done.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau