Is There a Point? -

Is There a Point?


by Andy Force
Senior Writer,
December 1, 2003


Michigan State basketball is perennially renowned for some of the best recruiting in the nation. Great recruiting means great players. Great players should lead to great teams, which with MSU it often does. The problem, great players have short stays in college. A short list of recent Spartan defectors includes Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph. J-Rich is playing 39 minutes a night and leading the Warriors with 19 ppg. Randolph is leading the Portland TrailBlazers with 20 ppg and 11 bounds per.

That said, the biggest loss to the Spartans regime in the last couple years is undoubtedly Marcus Taylor. The guy left a team in need. Don't misjudge, East Lansing is in good shape boasting a top-10 team for sure. But honestly, where is the point guard? Izzo has more wings than a KFC, but is 3-point specialist Chris Hill a point guard? Does 220-lb Alan Anderson need to be bringing the ball up the court? The new-age 6'7" point influx is cute, but it is not practical. Point guards aren't just short guys that like to play too. Point guards have a job to do, and the best are short. It is comically simple. Short guys are closer to the ground, which allows them to be quicker, more efficient ball-handlers.

A brief glance at the Spartans' roster reveals 7 players between 6'3" and 6'6". Head coach, Tom Izzo plans to use one or two of these guys to be the point guard though and therein lies the problem. The two most glaring deficiencies presented by the absence of a PG are increased turnovers and spottier on-the-ball defense. Last year the Spartans ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnovers (14.3 per game). Izzo endorses, at least this year, the dangerous point guard by committee that can be as uneasy as a co-ed's stomach. "It is still going to be a little bit of point guard by committee, yet I like the pieces of the puzzle we have to work with (Izzo in Athlon 2003-2004 preview)."

Candidates for point guard this season include Alan Anderson, who plays anywhere from point to power forward. He can do this because he has a solid frame and decent quickness. His shortcoming is that he cant, can not guard rocket-fired energy bursts like Dee Brown (Illinois), Daniel Horton (Michigan), Brandon McKnight (Purdue), Jeff Horner or Pierre Pierce (Iowa), and T.J. Parker (Northwestern). Last year Chris Hill played a lot with the ball in his hands. While Hill has the poise necessary, his 3-point shooting is an asset few teams in the Big Ten have. It would behoove the Spartans to play him off the ball.

Izzo as always brought in a great recruiting class. There are two top-notch guards, Shannon Brown and Brandon Cotton, both of whom could handle PG. Brown is a natural scoring guard and explosive in the open floor. Cotton, a traditional ball-handler is out at least a month with a likely stress fracture in his foot. After Marcus Taylor's swift departure following the 2001 season, Izzo brought in JuCo transfer Rashi Johnson, an ideal point. The prognosis was good but he had a minor injury early last year and has never gotten big minutes.

Point guard, like quarterback in football, is a position in dire need of stability. Some positions are gravy like a good center. Michigan State has that in Paul Davis. They have high-threat scorers all over their bench. You will not outdo the green and white in a battle of talent. This is something Izzo possesses in abundance. Experience is there with three solid, productive juniors in Chris Hill, Alan Anderson, and Maurice Ager. In the end, the Spartans need the point (guard) to become an exclamation point, and not a perpetual question mark.