Things have been pretty good as of late for the Spartans. Coming off of a Final Four appearance last season, the Spartans have recently been building one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for 2016...well, actually they currently have the top recruiting class for 2016 per 247Sports, just edging out Duke with the commitment of Miles Bridges this weekend. If you're keeping track at home that's two five-star and two four-star commits for 2016 (per 247), with all four players coming in the top 42 on 247's composite rankings. Oh, and let's not forget that Michigan State is in the running for in-state prospect Josh Jackson as well, who happens to be the #1 ranked player according to both 247Sports and their composite rankings...and friends with Bridges. Well then.
While Izzo has been building a monster class that should keep Michigan State positioned at the top of the Big Ten for years to come, the current 2015-16 season is just over a month away and his Spartans team is still going to be really, really good this year as well. Of course that makes sense as the team returns a ton of talent from last year's Final Four squad (including Denzel Valentine), now has transfer Eron Harris eligible and the third (18th overall) best recruiting class for 2015 in the Big Ten, even with the late loss of Caleb Swanigan to Purdue.
With practice officially beginning this past Friday, Izzo announced the team captains for State. In the end, two of the selections made plenty of sense with Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello earning captain status. Both Valentine and Costello have been with the program for four years, with Valentine also being the team's leader and best player. Valentine was an unanimous pick for captain, which wasn't much of a surprise.
The biggest surprise was that one of the three captains happens to be a sophomore, the first time that has happened since the 2009-10 season when Spartan legend Draymond Green was named captain. The third captain for the Spartans this season will be Lourawls Nairn, which didn't surprise Izzo thanks to Nairn's work ethic and ability as a team leader. Of course Nairn was in and out of the rotation as a freshman and also struggled heavily in the NCAA Tournament, only hitting 20% of his field goals while never playing more than 19 minutes. Either way, his ability to lead transcended any of his limitations last year and Nairn will have plenty of opportunities to improve in his sophomore season, especially if he can improve his jumper (only 31.8% last year, including 30% from three).
I guess in retrospect it shouldn't be that big of a huge surprise, though, when you consider that Green was advocating last year for Nairn to be named a team captain...when he was a freshman. Izzo has been impressed with Nairn's effort on improving this offseason, mentioning "I think that just speaks volumes of what kind of kid he is, not even what kind of player he is."
"They voted because they appreciate that and they realize that he is infectious and that is what a captain should be," said Izzo.
Michigan State had a special season last year and will field a roster in 2016 absolutely loaded with talent. Even better for the Spartans is the fact that this year's team should be even better than last years, now they just have to go out and play the games. With Wisconsin likely to take a step back, this could be State's year to retake the Big Ten if they can get past an equally talented Maryland program.