Tom Izzo tempers expectations of dual-sport athlete Keon Coleman

Tom Izzofamous (and proud) anti-social media, had no idea what kind of splash he was creating as a wide receiver Keon Coleman made his basketball debut at Michigan State at the end of Saturday win over Michigana move that immediately sent ripples through the digital water coolers of the Spartan community.

It was already a party afternoon in East Lansing ahead the biggest – and loudest – crowd Breslin Center has seen all season. The Spartans bounced back from an ugly loss to Illinois by dominating their bitter second-half rivals, with a number of streaks ensuring the pre-pandemic type crowd was not just seen, but heard.

And so, with 30 seconds remaining, not only did Steven Izzo check in – which is usually enough to send a final roar into the arena on his own – but Coleman and his football teammate did too. Maliq Carr, tight end for the Spartans. If a Steven Izzo sighting is the icing on the cake of a well-played game, the football players making their highly anticipated debuts were additional nuggets for Spartan fans.

The scarcity of athletes playing Power 5 football and high-level basketball at the same time made Coleman and Carr the focus of inordinate attention from MSU fans. Coleman, in particular, garnered a huge following in high school for his prowess in two sports, most notably the routine jaw-dropping dunks the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder threw while collecting multiple basketball offers from Division I. The native of Opelousas, Louisiana has made playing both sports in college a priority, and Tom Izzo helped recruit him to sign with Mel Tucker’s football program in February 2021.

Everyone eager to see Coleman try his hand at Big Ten hoops got their wish late against the Wolverines. Immediately after recording, he drove the left side of the lane past Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and made a layup.

“It’s no surprise he’s a good player,” Izzo said. “Some of you who went through (Coleman in) high school – I mean, he had monster games. It was funny, because you know me, I don’t try to do anything at the end of games, so it wasn’t the last shot or anything, it wasn’t like we held it or we rubbed it. But they came at him hard, and he showed his athletic ability, going with his left hand. He was really fun to have for three weeks and then I think about what he did in three weeks.

“Do I think it will make a difference this year? I don’t know, but I don’t know either.

This brief overview of Coleman, who first trained with the team on January 13, has only further fanned the flames of curiosity. Two days later, Coleman’s bucket video has over 400 retweets on the official MSU football account. Tucker’s program also made sure to capitalize on the excitement, posting a graphic promoting Coleman as the first player to score a touchdown and field goal for the top 10 football and basketball teams in the world. in the same college year since Charlie Ward made it to Florida State in 1992-93.

Yet the one belief Izzo holds closer than his hatred of social media is his view of the value of being patient with athlete development.

“What (Coleman is doing) now, he’s playing on this scout team, he’s playing more and more,” Izzo said. “A bit like Max (Christie) – they get along well – he’s a sponge. He wants to learn. I said that to Mel, I said I was really impressed with how quickly he picks things up and wants to learn. Kind of shy and calm child; I’m trying to get him out of there.

But if there’s a little-used freshman in line for an expanded role, it’s Peter Brooks II, not Coleman, Izzo said. A Detroit Douglass four-star prospect and the reigning winner of Michigan Mr. Basketball, Brooks has played just three games since Christmas, logging a total of 7 minutes, including 2 against the Wolverines.

“Pierre is doing a few things off the pitch, he’s just getting in better shape, and he’s really starting to come back,” Izzo said. “He had training (on Sunday) – really good. We have seen this for the past week now. I think we’re going to start working on him even more, trying to get Max to rest. I think his future is looking better and better just watching him grow over the past two weeks.

Coleman, meanwhile, has barely been on the team for two weeks. For those who took the Michigan game as a sign that Coleman’s future is now, Izzo pushed back with tempered expectations.

“I was really impressed with him, but I would put the brakes on a bit,” Izzo said. “I don’t think I’m going to kick him or probably be the first guy off the bench, but I don’t think he’s a fish out of water either.”

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