Last March, Michigan State Spartans star Durrell Summers saw a breakout NCAA Tournament propel his NBA Draft stock. A probable second round pick, Summers instead came back to school, and now sees his stock falling. The primary questions that surround his potential -defense and heart- are now flaring up again.
And Summers isn’t getting any help from his own Head Coach Tom Izzo on these topics. Answering a reporter’s question is one thing, but one could say he’s actually gone out of his way to call Summers out in the past three press conferences.
It all started in the home overtime win over Northwestern.
According to MLive.com
“Durrell was not feeling like he was doing anything right,” Izzo said. “And I don’t know if he didn’t want to go in, but he sure wasn’t very enthused. And so, if he’s not enthused, he’s going to sit. If he’s not enthused the next game, he’s going to sit. If he’s not enthused the game after, he’s going to sit. If he is enthused, he’s going to play. Pretty simple.”
Summers was benched the following game, but still played heavy minutes as the Spartans lost on the road to the Illini. Here’s what Izzo said that night.
“I liked his demeanor a little bit better. I didn’t like the one I saw the other day, but he’s going to have to keep earning his minutes, and become a better team guy, and I like what I saw in that respect. And if that continues, he’ll continue to play and if he doesn’t- he won’t.”
Then came Saturday night’s destruction at Purdue.
Izzo called Summers a “ghost” and made sure to tell the media that Summers efforts defending E’Twaun Moore, who scored 19 of his 26 points before halftime, were” non-existent.”
Later, Izzo went the “damning with faint praise” rout, as he gave Summers an obvious extremely back-handed complement.
“I thought the second half was the first time in three years that Durrell Summers, I don’t think I talked to him about a defensive lapse. That’s big for us. If he starts checking somebody, we’re going to be a better team. To Durrell’s credit, you know, I’ve been on him enough for a lifetime, but he really did a lot better job in the second half.”
So clearly that’s how the Izzo-Summers relationship works in the East Lansing family. Coach is exceedingly tough love on his star player. But why go out of the way to single him out when the entire team defense was so atrocious?
Purdue shot 58 percent from the field, the best any team has shot against the Spartans since they lost a first-round game in the 2006 NCAA tournament to George Mason, who shot close to 60% as they made the Spartans their first victims on the way to the Final Four.
Yesterday, Izzo suspended Korie Lucious for the rest of the season. In the offseason, Izzo dismissed guard Chris Allen from the program. So the Spartans have technically had three (for lack of a better term) “problem children” in their program in 2010 (Allen, Summers, Lucious).
Either way the buck has to ultimately stop with Izzo. He’s either a.) becoming too hard line for this players or b.) failing to find the character he’s looking for when recruiting his players.
Is Summers the next player to be formally and harshly disciplined? Stay tuned.
He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks