The latest team to head overseas for an exhibition trip will be the Michigan State Spartans as they depart today for Italy today. The Spartans trip overseas will start off their season as they hope to return to the Final Four after an impressive and lengthy postseason run last spring. Of course the team will need to replace two key players in Branden Dawson and Travis Tice, but Tom Izzo returns mostly everyone else, brings in a few highly touted recruits (Deyonta Davis, Matt McQuaid) and will have prolific West Virginia transfer Eron Harris finally eligible.
There were a few potential setbacks in the offseason, though, with guard Alvin Ellis III being cited for alcohol related charges twice this spring while the previously mentioned Harris was suspended for an alleged drunk driving incident. The Ellis issue wasn't a good look for the Spartans, but the junior has spent two years as a reserve and Izzo and company have a pretty good idea what they're working with. That being said, the off-the-court issues have became a tad more problematic for Harris as the pairs indiscretions have led to them being forced to sit out during the Italy trip. While Izzo is familiar with Ellis, Eron Harris has yet to play for the Spartans as he had to sit out last season after transferring. He does have the benefit of spending the last year with the team, but what could have been a valuable set of exhibition games with his new teammates is now off the table.
Interestingly enough it appears that sitting out the games in Italy will be the main disciplinary action for both players, as Izzo commented on the duos status for the season. While both Ellis and Harris will sit out in Italy, neither is set to miss any regular season action. Other disciplinary action includes an internal punishment, while one of the players (not specified) will be denied vehicle usage for the upcoming fall semester. However, when everything is said and done no time will actually be missed even with Ellis somehow essentially getting cited twice for the same charge in about a month while Harris ended up with a reckless driving conviction from his OWI charge.
"In Eron’s case, I saw total remorse from the beginning," Izzo said. As for Ellis, Izzo mentioned that he was a "little more disappointed" and that it's the reason Ellis will receive a harsher punishment.
"That’s why some of the price he’ll pay (Ellis) is even more beyond what the courts are doing. I don’t expect another problem, I can promise you that. These are two good kids, one gets it a little more than the other right now. And the other is gonna get it, or he’s still not gonna see the light of day here, and that’s the way it’s gonna be."
In some better news for Michigan State fans, guard Javon Bess has returned from several foot injuries and it's looking like he should be able to play in Italy. Bess missed the opening of last season and then reaggravated a foot injury, ultimately shutting it down in early February. The sooner Bess can return the better as he's struggled with his health throughout most of his time in East Lansing.
Either way, Michigan State will head out today for Italy and will participate in four games over the 12 day trip. Up first will be an exhibition game in Florence on the 25th, followed by a three game tournament in Trieste with the Spartans facing off against national teams from Italy, Russia and Georgia.