An offseason of tumult at Michigan State has apparently spilled into the regular season.
Sophomore Derrick Nix, a reserve big man for the Spartans, did not practice with the team Thursday and will not travel to next week's Maui Invitational, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told the Lansing State Journal. Asked whether the highly recruited sophomore might consider transferring as a result of playing time issues, Izzo said Nix has to figure out "what he's gonna do and what he wants to do."
"I mean, that's kind of completely up to him," Izzo told the Lansing State Journal. "That's not what I want, but completely up to him. However he feels."
Questions regarding Nix's status come on the heels of a chaotic offseason for Michigan State that began Izzo's flirtation with the Cleveland Cavaliers and also included the dismissal of starting guard Chris Allen and a DUI arrest for replacement Korie Lucious. The second-ranked Spartans, nonethless, have won their first two games this season and remain one of the favorites to win a national title next spring.
Nix had shed more than 20 pounds from his 6-foot-9 frame in hopes of making more of an impact as a sophomore, but thus far he has been unable to crack the rotation in Michigan State's crowded frontcourt. After scoring two points and grabbing four boards in a season-opening rout of Eastern Michigan last Friday, Nix went scoreless in just four minutes in Tuesday's more narrow victory over South Carolina.
Although Izzo would not confirm that Nix's absence has anything to do with playing time concerns, it's hard to believe that it would be a result of friction between the sophomore and the coaching staff. Nix, after all, was the player who tearfully pleaded for Izzo to turn down the Cavs job during a fan rally at Breslin Center in June.
"Nobody knows what (Izzo) is going to do, but I just want to thank all y'all," Nix told the crowd. I'm emotional about all this. I don't want coach Izzo to leave."
If Nix now were to decide to part ways with Michigan State, it would be another blow to the depth the Spartans appeared to have before Allen's dismissal and a season-ending injury to freshman wing Russell Byrd. The Spartans would be down to four frontcourt players, albeit a group that includes Draymond Green, Delvin Roe and Adreian Payne.