Michigan State basketball's Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham open to 5th season

Chris Solari
Detroit Free Press

EAST LANSING — Could Tom Izzo’s recruiting for next season take an internal turn?

Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr. are both fourth-year seniors. But each is eligible to return to Michigan State’s basketball program next season if they want thanks to the NCAA’s COVID-19 waiver for last season.

Brown, a captain this winter, said he already has thought about a fifth season in college and had initial talks about it with Izzo and the rest of the Spartans’ staff.

“I mean, right now, I'm just thinking about my year and just how I can move forward and just get this team to a national championship,” Brown said Wednesday. “It's not really a stress right now. I know I have it, I know at the end of the day I can use it. But right now, I'm just thinking about winning games.”

Michigan State's Marcus Bingham Jr. celebrates with Gabe Brown during the first half Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019 at the Breslin Center.

The two were freshmen on the Spartans’ 2019 Big Ten championship and Final Four team. Brown, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 7.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20.7 minutes last season, while the 7-foot Bingham posted 3.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks 11.4 minutes a game.

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Izzo banked two scholarships this season, giving one to sophomore walk-on guard Davis Smith for this winter.

MSU has a pair of four-star commitments for 2022 in point guard Tre Holloman and forward Jaxon Kohler. Brown, Bingham and Joey Hauser are the three seniors on scholarship this season, though Hauser also could appeal to the NCAA for an injury waiver from his time at Marquette on top of the COVID exemption. That could keep him in green and white through the 2023-24 season.

Izzo said he has “adjusted accordingly” to prepare in the event  players come back for the added year.

“We have to plan for that,” Izzo said. “We have to deal with that.”

Bingham also said he is “focusing on now” and not yet thinking about what he might do next season. Like all college players, both are hoping to have a strong season to boost their stock for the NBA draft. 

“My main goal is this year,” Bingham said. “The team this year, the season this year, every game — I'm just focused on this year. I'm not even thinking about the fifth year or anything like that. It's a good option, but that's not what I want to think about as far now.”

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MSU lost four players to transfer from last year’s team in Rocket Watts, Foster Loyer, Thomas Kithier and Jack Hoiberg. Plus Aaron Henry entered the NBA draft and Joshua Langford graduated. Izzo added junior point guard Tyson Walker from the transfer portal and brought in three freshmen guards this season: Max Christie, Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks II.

Izzo chastised those who think he might be forcing out players via the transfer portal.

“I'm not getting rid of anybody that wants to be here,” he said. “If I brought them here, and let's say it was a mistake — I mean, we make mistakes, too — that's my mistake. So anybody that wants to be here has got the right to be here and will be here under Tom Izzo.

“Now, if guys leave, I talked to them about, ‘If you want to play more, this is what you could do and should do,’ and this and that. But there will never be a guy run out unless he's not doing what he needs to do, because that's my obligation to him. … I can promise the kid that comes here, it'll be his decision (to leave), not mine unless he doesn't do his job.”

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Izzo also continued to voice his concern about the portal and what it is doing to college programs, predicting “I'm afraid it's going to be the wild, wild west on steroids.”

“Roster management is a problem,” said Izzo, who is entering his 27th season as MSU’s head coach. “That's why maybe you will see more programs not use all their scholarships. And everybody thinks that's great, but that means there's less kids in high school getting scholarships. I don't see what's so good about that.”

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.