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Michigan State basketball: The importance of Tom Izzo’s Flint pipeline

The Flint pipeline has been huge for MSU hoops.



Michigan State basketball
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tom Izzo developed a Flint pipeline for Michigan State basketball when other big-time coaches wouldn’t. And it paid off.

In 1995, a relatively unknown man from the modest town of Iron Mountain, Mich., would be named the head coach of Michigan State basketball.

That man is now Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo.

In Izzo’s first two seasons after taking over from national champion coach Jud Heathcote, he strung together records of 16-16 and 17-12, respectively. Both seasons ended the same: Second-round NIT exits.

Things changed for Izzo, and in a hurry. In his third year, Izzo’s Spartans would go 22-8 with a Sweet 16 appearance. Year 3 was no fluke. Michigan State would only build on its success, eventually leading to a 2000 National Championship.

So what changed for Izzo and Michigan State basketball? The answer is quite simple.

Flint happened.

Flint, Mich., was an untapped area full of potential regarding elite athletes. Izzo was one of the first power conference coaches to heavily target the area in his recruiting efforts. The trajectory of the team turned on a dime as Izzo was able to establish a recruiting pipeline in Flint.

Izzo’s first big-time recruit in 1995 was Flint native Antonio Smith whose recruitment had a domino effect throughout the city. The new and improved Spartans were famously spearheaded by a group called “The Flintstones.” Morris Peterson, Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Antonio Smith were key contributors in Michigan State’s first Sweet 16 run under Izzo. All four players were Flint natives. It’s extremely rare to have that many players on the same team from the same community. The trio of Cleaves, Peterson, and Bell would lead MSU to its second national title.

Izzo has gone on to make 25 consecutive March Madness appearances, eight Final Four trips, win 10 regular-season Big Ten titles, and win a national championship. Many of these teams included players from Flint.

The list of players Izzo has landed from Flint includes:

Antonio Smith
Morris Peterson
Charlie Bell
Mateen Cleaves
Kelvin Torbert
Anthony Hamo
Tim Bograkos
Marquise Gray
Miles Bridges

Izzo has been coaching long enough that he’s now reaping the rewards of this recruiting pipeline he’s created.

As great as the pipeline has been, Michigan State has also missed on some key players from Flint as well. Tom Izzo has publicly lamented not landing Monte Morris. Michigan State also had an opportunity to go after Beecher Buccaneer, Keyon Menifield, and more.

The state championship Beecher Buccaneers are now being coached by former Spartan and Flint native Marquise Gray. With a Spartan at the helm, there’s reason to believe this pipeline will continue. Michigan State has already extended an offer to Flint native and 2025 prospect Trey McKenney who has received multiple offers from power conference schools and his interest will only increase as he continues to show elite potential.

As a Flint native myself, this pipeline is the primary reason I became a Michigan State fan. I remember the pandemonium in the city when the Flintstones were rolling. I remember what it was like when Tom Izzo would show up at a high school basketball game. For a long time, it felt like kids in Flint were unseen. With Izzo developing such great relationships in the community, it made every kid practice that much harder. You had a thought in the back of your mind that Izzo could pull up at any time and watch you play. Not many programs were willing to show up to Flint on a regular basis. Izzo’s willingness to do so created hope for basketball players throughout the city.

This pipeline has also helped shape Izzo and his legacy. Had Izzo failed to land Antonio Smith, there’s no telling how things would’ve played out. If Izzo didn’t begin seeing success in his third season in part due to his Flint players, how patient would the fanbase have been with his performance? How would the legacy of Izzo change if the Flintstones never came?

The fanbase will wait and see whether or not the pipeline continues with McKenney but his recruitment is proof that the Flint pipeline is still alive.

Flint will forever play a large role in the legacy of Tom Izzo. Any conversations that are had in the future about the greatness of Izzo will also in essence talking about the greatness of Flint. The two will be forever linked.


Writer says there’s a huge gap between Purdue and Michigan State basketball

This seems like a wild claim.



Michigan State basketball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star claims that Purdue is “historically loaded” and there’s a huge gap between them and Michigan State basketball.

With the news of Jaden Akins and AJ Hoggard returning along with Tyson Walker and Malik Hall to go along with the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, Michigan State basketball went from a conference title contender to a national title contender.

Essentially everyone who follows college basketball has Michigan State as a top-five team and right there in the Big Ten as 1B to Purdue’s 1A — some even have it the other way around.

The Spartans bring back everyone but Joey Hauser to a team that went to the Sweet 16 and Purdue returns national player of the year Zach Edey to a Big Ten title team. Both teams are loaded and should be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to national title contention.

But one Indy Star writer believes that Purdue is “historically loaded” and the talent-and-depth gap between the Boilermakers and “everyone else” is as large as he’s seen in years. Just a wild claim.

Gregg Doyel cites a solid incoming class to go along with Edey returning and the two freshmen guards with another year in the system. But he fails to recognize that Michigan State got even better. The Spartans are bringing in an even better recruiting class and they return their 2-3 most talented players from a year ago. The only loss is Hauser.

Saying that this year’s Purdue team is far-and-away the most talented and deepest team in the Big Ten and the gap is the biggest it’s been in years is asinine. There was a much larger gap last year.

Michigan State will go toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers and as long as Edey can be neutralized, the Spartans will have a chance to take them down for the Big Ten crown.

It’s tough to say a team like Michigan State basketball that’s 11-12 guys deep is not nearly as talented or deep as Purdue, but hey, let’s put that early chip on the shoulder.

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Michigan State Basketball: Allocating guard minutes for 2023-24

A lot of guards, not a lot of minutes to be had.



Michigan State basketball
© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball has an absolutely loaded backcourt heading into 2023-24. Let’s allocate the guard minutes.

Michigan State basketball has a loaded backcourt with the news of AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins returning next season. Add this on top of Tyson Walker coming back and Michigan State adding a four-star point guard in Jeremy Fears just loads up this back court even more.

Let’s take a look at what the minute allocation could look like between the five guards on the roster.


The starting point guard is clearly set into place with AJ Hoggard starting 33 of 34 games last year. Next year’s team still goes as Hoggard goes and he will most likely average 28-30 minutes per game. AJ being able to defend multiple positions allows him to play alongside any of the other three guards on the roster next year. He should average around 15 points per game and six-plus assists. Him being able to increase his 3-point percentage up to 35 percent next year should help his scoring dramatically.

The starting shooting guard is Walker who started in all 34 games last season and nothing will change this season. This team is going to rely plenty on Tyson to begin the season as this team continues to mesh with all of the different lineups. He played almost 34 minutes per game this season due to injuries and necessity. Tyson will take a step back and only play 30-32 minutes this upcoming season. He will look to average 16-plus points per game and 2.5-plus assists.


This may come as a surprise, but I believe the backup point guard role will fall to Tre Holloman. He has a year under the belt with the system and should take a step forward in his role. He is able to defend either guard position allowing him to play with any of the other four guards on the team. Holloman will play anywhere between 8-12 minutes per game and will look to be in a more featured role running the backup offense. Tre should average 3-5 points per game and 1.5 assists.

Jeremy Fears will fill in and be able to learn from a loaded backcourt while playing 6-8 minutes per game which could be pushed to 8-10 by the end of the season. Fears defense should rival what Walker brings to this team with this second group. Fears offensive role will look like Tre’s freshman year and not looked upon much offensively. He should look to average 1.5-plus points and one assist per game.

Finally, Jaden Akins will fill in anywhere from 2-5 minutes at the two-guard spot. He can help fill an offensive role when Tyson is out of the game and can handle some of the pick and roll duties in this spot. Akins will mostly play on the wing as he started 25 games there last season. He is a guard, but he’ll be forced into playing on the wing.

Minutes Summary

  • AJ Hoggard: 28-30 per game
  • Tyson Walker: 30-32 per game
  • Tre Holloman: 8-12 per game
  • Jeremy Fears: 6-8 per game
  • Jaden Akins: 2-5 per game

Akins did tweet this out the other day:

So he could see more ball-handling duties.

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Jeremy Fears makes final cut for U19 USA Basketball team

Jeremy Fears could represent USA Basketball again.



Jeremy Fears
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Incoming Michigan State freshman Jeremy Fears has made the final cut for the U19 USA Basketball team.

Incoming Michigan State basketball freshman Jeremy Fears is hard at work this summer. He is currently in the process of trying to make the final roster for the U19 USA Basketball team. Thirty-five athletes have been selected to participate in their upcoming training camp, and Fears is included on that list.

Training camp for these 35 athletes with take place June 11-18. Twelve players will then be selected to participate in the FIBA U19 Wold Cup at the conclusion of this training camp. The World Cup takes place from June 24 through July 2.

The 35 players consist of some athletes in the 2022 class that have one year of college ball under their belts. The pool of players also consists of athletes from the 2023 incoming freshmen class and the 2024 class who will be high school seniors. More than half of these participants have USA Basketball experience and ten of them have won gold for the USA already.

Jeremy Fears’ USA Basketball history

Jeremy Fears is one of the 10 players mentioned to have already won gold for the USA. In fact, Fears has won a gold medal twice. He won the 2021 U16 FIBA Championships and in 2022 won gold in the U17 FIBA World Cup.

Based on this history alone, I love his chances to make the team again. The USA Basketball program is obviously very familiar with him already which gives him an advantage. Also, why wouldn’t they want someone who has won two gold medals to play for them again?

Fears has yet to move in to East Lansing like some of his fellow members of his freshman class have. He likely will see this event out before moving to campus to start gearing up for the regular season. Michigan State has had many athletes compete with team USA in the past, so Tom Izzo is more than happy to let his players participate.

For the full USA Basketball press release, click here.

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