Michigan and Michigan State will take the floor Saturday night to write another chapter in the storied in-state rivalry. But after Monday’s tragic, senseless shooting on Michigan State’s campus killed three students and left five in critical condition, the game is taking a backseat.
“Right now, it’s not about the sport, it’s about life,” Juwan Howard said Friday. “Unfortunately, there were those that were lost during this tragedy. It hit home. It hit very close to home for us. Yes, it did not hit our campus. But Michigan State, knowing them very well, playing against State in basketball as a player and now coaching against them as a coach, you understand that life is so precious.
“… This is not one of those where you think about the sport. You think about the people.”
That’s what Howard did upon learning of the tragic events unfolding Monday night. The Howard family has a close family friend whose daughter attends Michigan State. Howard said he’ll “never forget” reaching out to his wife, Jenine, to make sure the family friend’s daughter was safe.
When Howard learned that she wasn’t on campus at the time, he described feeling a “sigh of relief.” He also realized that not everyone was as fortunate.
“Our heart goes out to the Michigan State family and also, most importantly, condolences to the families of the lost ones,” Howard said.
Saturday, Michigan has a number of plans in place to commemorate the victims and express support for the Michigan State community. Players and coaches will don special shirts during warm-ups; the Michigan pep band will perform the Michigan State alma mater; the Maize Rage will unfurl a “Spartan Strong” banner in the student section
“They’re going through what they’re going through and we all know it’s not easy,” Howard said. “We’re just gonna be there to support like we’ve been from Day One and at the same time understanding that, yes, sports do help in a lot of ways of getting that therapy that you need to take your mind away from what just happened.”
Ultimately, that’s why the Spartans decided to return to action Saturday, after postponing Wednesday’s game against Minnesota. Howard said that he would have “totally understood” if Michigan State didn’t want to play Saturday, instead opting for more time to process and grieve.
But now that they are playing?
“I expect two competitive teams to still go out there and compete, understanding that this is the game that they all love playing,” Howard said. “Me and Coach Izzo put our heart into our players and helping them go through whatever they go through, and preparing them to play the game that they truly love. We know that once that tip-ball goes up, it’s going to be all about the game of basketball and both teams trying to, at the end of the day, win.”
Williams’ status remains unclear
Terrance Williams II missed Tuesday’s game in Wisconsin with a knee bruise. Howard said that Williams did not practice on Thursday, indicating that Friday will be crucial in determining Williams’ potential status.
“We will see today at practice as far as how he’s feeling and how he’s moving,” Howard said.
Though Williams has struggled to produce at times this season, but he is second on the team in rebounding, averaging 6.1 boards per game. Michigan felt that void at times against the Badgers, as it was often unable to secure key rebounds on both ends.
In Williams’ absence, Will Tschetter drew his first career start at the ‘4.’
Phil Martelli, who has been sidelined by COVID-19, returned to practice this week.
Michigan to honor 2013 team at halftime
At halftime of Saturday’s game, Michigan will honor the 10th anniversary of the 2013 team that made the Final Four before ultimately falling in the National Championship game to Louisville. John Beilein, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht are among those expected to be in attendance.
Howard — at the time in his last year in the NBA with the Miami Heat — remembers the run well.
“I recall trying to find a flight from Miami to be there and support the team as they went on that amazing run,” Howard said. “To get to the national championship, me personally, I know that’s very hard to do. … Being in that building in Atlanta, watching and seeing those young men and the staff go out and compete against Louisville, it was remarkable.
“… I think that team should be recognized and supported for that amazing run that year. That’s what the Michigan family does. We’re always about that family, as far as alumni, adults who have paved the way for others. And they need to be recognized for supporting the University at its fullest.”
John Beilein, Bacari Alexander, Nik Stauskas, Jon Horford, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Josh Bartelstein, Spike Albrecht and Eso Akunne are all expected back in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
bacari alexander! eso akunne! bummed mitch won’t be there, but i assume he’s gone pro in yo-yo tricks or something
I hope Beilein gets there a bit early and can teach the team a few things.