As for the state concerning the level of camaraderie between the athletic programs down in East Lansing, Mich., all things seem to be coming up roses.
After their dominating win over a surging Minnesota team to earn their head coach, Tom Izzo, his 400th victory with MSU, the Michigan State Spartans returned to practice with their heads held high and their determination realigned. Back in the mid-2000s, during the low times with head football coach John L. Smith, the Spartans football and basketball programs never seemed to go out of their way to support each other. Sure Tom Izzo was riding high and taking his team to a national championship and through all kinds of success in the NCAA tournament, but Smith just never seemed interested in cross-support for his players.
Mark Dantonio certainly helped in putting a stop to that.
In recent years, Dantonio and Izzo have been seen supporting each other on-and-off the court and playing field. The numerous appearances and guest speaker roles have helped to create a single Spartan identity at the university. In an effort to help demonstrate that Michigan State is not just a “basketball school” or merely an “emerging Big Ten powerhouse” in football, these two athletic programs have lent each other their best and brightest, including their leaders, to help solidify that singular school persona of success.
During Izzo’s recent practice, his players got a chance to get a little motivation from one of Dantonio’s brightest and most-promising young talents in defensive end William Gholston. Draymond Green, who had one of his best performances of the season in their recent win over the Golden Gophers, was quite pleased to see the bright young star on the basketball court.
“It’s always good to have guys like that around,” Green said. “I go over to their practices. It just all goes back to that one big word: family. Everybody around here is family. That’s how we approach things and that’s how it’s going to stay.”
Green helped to echo the new mindset set forth by Izzo and Dantonio in their hopes to not just have one of the school’s programs take the top spotlight, but rather to have the whole of Michigan State athletics becoming a nationally-recognized name in college sports.
“At a lot of schools, basketball and football teams are fighting over who can be the top dog. None of that matters here,” Green said. “We all want each other to win.”
As for the big-time defensive end’s take on the issue?
“We all just got a good bond with each other,” Gholston added. “Everybody’s a Spartan. We all just work together.”
In the end, I’m guessing most people who encounter William Gholston are more than happy to be wearing a full set of protective pads on the field, but how does Michigan State’s basketball leader feel about Gholston’s chances on the court in the friendly confines of the Breslin Center?
“He could be a big bruiser and bang some people,” Green said, laughing. “I don’t know what he can do on the offensive end, but he can go bang some people for us. Set a couple screens.”
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.