EAST LANSING — Malik Hall and Tyson Walker don’t know yet if they will return to Michigan State basketball next season for their additional year of eligibility.
Joey Hauser he could also return, but that would require a waiver.
The only thing Tom Izzo knows right now as the Spartans prepare to host Ohio State on Saturday for Senior Day and the final game of the regular season is that three of his key players have decisions to make.
That and his son, Steven Izzo, plan to return for a fifth season as a walk-on guard.
Such is the nature of college basketball in 2023, with those who played during the 2020-21 season. disrupted by the pandemic are eligible to receive waivers for an additional year, and others are dealing with another potential year due to injuries.
“It’s a little different,” Tom Izzo said after Thursday’s practice. “We have a couple of guys who could go another year. No one knows that now. What I’m going to do with those guys is take them through the year and take care of it, and then I’ll see what’s best for them. You can imagine how screwed up this is for us and for roster management, but nobody in the NCAA or any of the media thinks it has anything to do with anything. And that’s sad, because it’s hard for them, it’s hard for us, it’s hard for everyone. I don’t drink the Kool-Aid because it’s such a good thing.
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“But I think our guys are in a good place for the most part and that’s all I want right now. We will finish the season and then we will worry about the next one.”
Hall, Walker and former running back Jason Whitens will be honored during MSU’s senior ceremony at the Breslin Center following the game against the Buckeyes (Noon/ESPN). Hauser, who participated in last year’s senior day before deciding to return for his fifth season and third season with the Spartans, will not participate again this year. Steven Izzo will wait until next year to go through his graduation ceremonies.
“It definitely goes by really fast,” said Hall, an Aurora, Ill., native who, along with Steven Izzo, is the last remaining player from MSU’s 2020 Big Ten regular-season team that had the NCAA tournament canceled that year. “It doesn’t seem like yesterday was like I was a freshman, but I can still remember most of it. So it’s definitely crazy.”
Of those veterans, only Hall and Izzo spent their entire college careers at MSU.
Hauser transferred to MSU prior to the 2019-20 season, but had to sit out due to NCAA regulations at the time and was not granted a waiver to play immediately — that rule changed the following year. The 6-foot-9 forward decided to return last April and is set to reapply to the NCAA for a sixth season after sitting out the 2017-18 season. spent half a year as a redshirt. Hauser enrolled at Marquette in January of his senior year of high school following a season-ending injury.
It turned out to be a good decision to return to MSU, and Hauser is playing his best basketball this season, ranking second on the Spartans with 14.1 points and leading them with 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
“Joey may or may not (consider a return), that’s entirely up to him. But that’s something I haven’t even addressed to him,” Izzo said. “It will be interesting to see how he feels. And what he did, he made a lot of progress. There are people who will be interested in Joey Hauser now. If there is enough interest, I say sayonara. If not, I say let’s see what happens. But it’s totally, totally up to Joey.”
Another transfer who didn’t have to make the cut when he arrived at MSU last season, Walker is also continuing a strong finish to his second season in green and white. The 6-1 guard from Westbury, New York, leads the Spartans with 14.8 points per game and is averaging 18.5 points in his last six games.
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“I feel like we’re coming together at the right time offensively,” Walker said. “We’ve got a lot of old guys on the way out, so we’re just trying to do it any way we can.”
Hall’s season was marred by a recurring stress reaction in his left foot, which first cost him eight games in November and December, then flared up again and sidelined him for three games in January.
The 6-8 senior forward has been slowly coming back and continues to improve and said he feels he is 100% as healthy as he has been. Still coming off the bench even though Izzo thinks of him as a sixth man, Hall is averaging 12.0 points in 27.0 minutes over his last four games.
Injuries only scratch the surface of what he’s dealt with — his father Lorenzo’s ongoing battle with frontotemporal dementia, the death of younger brother Cassius Winston when Hall was a freshman in November 2019, a season-ending pandemic, and most recently the Feb. 13 mass shooting on campus in in which three were killed and five others were seriously wounded.
“I was thinking about that the other day. The experiences that I’ve had here in my four years, I feel like they’re probably some of the craziest that anybody’s had in their time at Michigan State,” said Hall, who is averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds this winter. . “It’s definitely interesting to me. There’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned through everything that’s been going on, even within the program, with life in general.”
Whitens spent four years at Western Michigan (2018-22), and sat out the 2019-20 season due to injury. He transferred to MSU before the 2021-22 season, but suffered a torn knee ligament during a preseason game that kept him out for the second year. He could apply for a medical hardship waiver to return in 2023-24. for the sixth college season, confirmed the MSU spokesperson. The 6-6 native played a key role in the win over Portland without Hall and Jaden Akins, posting a season-high four points in 17 minutes.
Playing for the Spartans — and fellow Yooper Izzo — lived up to expectations, Whitens said.
“Honestly, just the way he perseveres in everything and his mindset in everything he does. He wants to be the best and he wants to make the people around him the best they can be,” said Whitens, who has eight points and nine rebounds in 75 minutes in 16 games this winter. “So, growing up, being from UP, it’s obviously not that well known (in basketball). And the way he managed to make a name for himself is an inspiration for all of us to want to go and do the same.
“He made it seem like nothing is too big to chase when you’re from UP. And that’s what I wanted to live.”
And then there’s Steven Izzo, who grew up around his father’s program through his development into a blue blood. He’ll get one more year to be a part of the program while he works to finish his master’s — Hauser and Whitens will get theirs, and Hall is close to his.
Although Steven Izzo is playing sparingly, making six appearances this season and 34 over the past four years, the 5-8 Lansing Catholic product has become a fan favorite during his career as Mat Ishbia’s late-game replacement type. And it gives his dad another chance to be his coach.
“He would never tell anybody, but I think he would miss me,” the head coach said. “I think he really thought about it, and he said, ‘How about not getting my butt chewed every day?’
“To be very honest with you, it’s a really good thing for me. It was an amazing experience to have him around every day.”
Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.
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Next up: Buckeyes
To match: Michigan State (18-11, 10-8 Big Ten) vs. Ohio State (12-17, 4-14).
Inform: Saturday at noon; Breslin Center, East Lansing.
TV/Radio: ESPN; WJR-AM (760).
This article originally appeared on the Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball senior day: Maybe they’ll all be back