Thought I’d do a season wrap going player by player, what they did and what we might have to look forward to next year. We’ll start out easy by talking about a guy who unfortunately didn’t get a chance to play nearly as much as anticipated, freshman guard Javon Bess.
14-15 – To call this a frustrating first year for the Ohio reared freshman wing Bess would be an understatement. Javon had a foot injury in October, derailing what many (including his head coach) anticipated would be a strong debut season. The sense I had is that Izzo expected Bess to be a starter alongside Travis and Zel in the MSU backcourt and there was good reason to believe that. He reportedly showed a good early grasp of defensive concepts, always the starting point for playing time in this program. He also adds the kind of size/skill combination as a 6’6″ power wing which had Izzo making Draymond Green comparisons. That’s probably a bit lofty at this stage but we saw just enough flashes in the 12 games he played in to see that he does possess great vision and some strong instincts as well. I particularly noted his ability to feed the post…the few times he got a chance to do it I was struck by the way he showed patience and hit the target ON TARGET, not something you see with regularity from players of any class standing these days. His size is going to be a major factor for MSU going forward, as the Spartans have sometimes been a little bit shy of that kind of length on the perimeter over the years. I’ve mentioned before that part of the reason MSU’s rebounding over the past couple of seasons hasn’t been quite up to program standards is that, outside of Zel, guard rebounding hasn’t been as good as it needs to be. Bess showed real potential there, averaging almost 3 boards per game in just 12mpg of PT. He’s strong, tough and has a nose for the ball.
Going Forward – Health is the big issue here. Javon’s foot never got straight. He tried to play his way through it but was eventually shut down for a second time and had another surgery to attempt to correct the problem. As is the nature of fans, some see this and assume that exactly the same thing which happened to Russell Byrd is going to take place here. I don’t believe in rabbit’s feet or lucky stars, so I’m not inclined to extrapolate one thing from another when there’s no real relation between the two but I’ll admit that anytime you’ve got a player coming off a serious injury and a couple of operations within a few months of each other, it’s reasonable to take a cautious approach in terms of what you’ll have.
Assuming that Bess is able to get back to being the player he was last summer, I think he becomes an impact guy in the rotation at a minimum and may in fact be good enough to push for a starting spot. Right now, I’d be inclined to expect to see him coming off the bench because of the way Tum has claimed some territory and a role on this team but if MSU is convinced that Eron Harris is truly ready to handle the point guard spot, then you could see a scenario where they’d value what Bess brings enough to elevate him. It was mostly a lost season for Javon as a freshman, so I’m not sure that I expect to see his biggest weakness (jumpshooting) addressed in a major way for next year…right now, the focus is going to be on getting healthy and getting his comfort level back in terms of what he already can do, more so than expanding his game. That’s fine, though, as he brings enough to the table to help this team significantly as-is.