Ohio State preps to avoid embarrassment at Iowa

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State’s big hope for the future is a freshman who hasn’t played yet and is recovering from a back injury. But the status of young Mateen Cleaves dominated much of the talk at Thursday’s unveiling of the new Spartan basketball team.
“He’s got a long way to go, but I’d like to go to war with him,” said coach Tom Izzo. “Mateen Cleaves is a point guard who makes other people around him better.”
Cleaves, a 6-2, 190-pound guard from Flint Northern, is Michigan State’s bright hope to return to cage power. But he has been recovering from a stress reaction to his back, which has kept him behind in preparation for the 1996-97 season.
“It’s been hard for him because he’s had a lot of time off and he is getting antsy and a little frustrated,” Izzo said. “He’s had to make some adjustments.”
“I’m really pleased with how he’s handled things so far. I think he will be able to handle that kind of pressure,” he said.
Cleaves was confident he’d be ready to play by the season opener Nov. 25. But he discounted talk that he’s the make-or-break player for the Spartans’ future.
“I don’t think it’s any pressure on me,” he said at courtside in Breslin Arena.
“I didn’t come here as a savior. I just came here to play basketball,” he said.
“It’s like a dream come true.”
Izzo, starting his second season as head coach, said he aims to have a more athletic, speedy team this year than the one that finished 16-16 last season. The Spartans were 9-9 in Big Ten action, good for seventh place.
This season, most of the national basketball magazines are picking Michigan State to finish eighth or lower in the conference, in part because the Spartans lost their two top scorers and their top rebounder. Top players are expected to be senior forward Jon Garavaglia, senior guard Ray Weathers and junior guard Thomas Kelley.
But the lack of firepower shows when Weathers, who averaged 9.7 points a game last season, is the top returning scorer.
Michigan State opens the new season Nov. 25 against East Tennessee State. It launches the Big Ten season Jan. 2 at Indiana.