Michigan State Basketball: Predictions for Spartans' Team Awards
At the conclusion of each season, Michigan State, like many other teams, has a banquet for its players.
They eat. They laugh. They pick up awards.
In 2012, senior Draymond Green swept the card by taking home three of the most coveted trophies in the world of Spartans basketball—the Jumpin' Johnny Green Chairman of the Boards Award, team MVP and the Antonio Smith Glue and Guts Award.
That makes sense. Green was the best rebounder. He was most certainly the "guts" of Michigan State, and he was the most valuable to his teammates and coach.
This year, Adreian Payne could win those honors.
And like Green, he could finish his career as the Big Ten's player of the year. But that comes from the league, not coach Tom Izzo.
This slideshow will examine team-based awards, but it'll also look through a wider scope, designating possible winners of the Stephen G. Scofes Inspirational Player Award and potential suitors for non-specified distinctions, such as best shooter and best defender.
Jumpin' Johnny Chairman of the Boards
In 2012-13, Adreian Payne led Michigan State with 7.6 rebounds per game.
Had Derrick Nix not been in the equation, he may have averaged more than that. Nix, a Detroit tough guy, picked up 6.6 rebounds per game, adding muscle and strength to complement Payne's finesse.
Now that Payne is alone in the middle, his average could be near 10 or 12 per game. As a senior, Draymond Green averaged nearly 15 points and 12 boards per game in 2012. That line could be Payne's this season, as he's expected to increase statistics across the board.
Also a national player of the year candidate, Payne is a lock for the Jumpin' Johnny Green Chairman of the Boards Award, which has been presented by none other than Johnny Green himself.
Guts and Glue Award
He's the oil that lubes the engine; he's Keith Appling, Michigan State's senior point man.
As the chief ball-handler, it's Appling's job to dictate the pace of the game. As a great defender, it's his job to stop the other guys from running wild.
When it's time to call out teammates, Appling should be the one leading the conversation. When it's time to bond together as one, again, Appling should be the one leading the way.
In short, the former Detroit Pershing star should be the guts and glue for the Spartans this season. Leading by emotion and example, Appling has the potential to close out his collegiate career with a run to the Final Four; he hasn't been there since his freshman season, when he lit up UCLA for nine points during a late-game surge.
Although the Spartans lost, Appling showed that he has the gall to pull it off in crunch time. This is his season.
He'll get competition from others, but once spring rolls around and trophies are dispersed, Appling should be the proud owner of the Antonio Smith Guts and Glue Award.
Stephen G. Scofes Inspirational Player Award
Two years ago, senior Austin Thornton shared this award with Draymond Green.
Both were inspirational figures on the court and in the locker room. They deserved the personal honor, that much is certain.
Thornton was never a star, but he gave what he had when he could—and that's all Tom Izzo could ask for.
Predicting this year's winner isn't so easy.
Payne has inspired others with his kindness and generosity. He'll probably do a of that this season.
Remember his little friend Lacy, and you'll remember a towering, menacing Division-I athlete brought to his knees by a young girl's smile.
Payne's interaction with the local cancer survivor was one of the warmest moments of the college season. His personal journey has also inspired others. In high school, Payne struggled with day-to-day student activities. He's learned at his own pace and is scheduled to receive his degree from Michigan State in May.
What a leap for Payne.
But Travis Trice could contend for this trophy, too. The junior guard is a ball of energy. If a team can't get fired up by his intensity, well, it's incapable of experiencing emotion. It's that simple, really. Trice is a catalyst off the bench.
He could be the Spartans' most inspirational figure of the 2013-14 season. Let's play this safe and call it 50-50 for either Payne or Trice.
Nothing else to see here. It's Payne.
In all seriousness, Gary Harris, Keith Appling or Branden Dawson could also compete for team MVP honors.
Payne is the favorite, but Harris isn't far behind. The super sophomore is considered as one of college hoops' elite players, so he's certainly worthy of being tagged as such on his own team.
A strong point guard could be the remedy this season. If the Spartans make a run to the Final Four, Appling could be the last one standing for team MVP consideration.
Dawson, an extremely athletic wing, should also heavily contribute. The 6'6", 220-pound junior is primed to do damage with an improved jumper and aggressive nature. He's a perfect candidate for MVP.
Best Shooter and Defender
The best shooter and defender segment will be combined, as one player stands to claim both "trophies" this season, Gary Harris.
As the team's second-leading scorer a year ago, Harris contributed 12.9 points per game and shot .456 from the field. He shot .411 from long range and shot .755 from the stripe.
While keeping with his 40 percent mark from 3-point land, he should finish the season somewhere in the range of 15 points per game, convert about 80 percent of his attempts from the line and hit about 45 percent of his shots from the field.
Defensively, Harris is one of the best since Charlie Bell and Travis Walton, two of Michigan State's all-time great pests. Prior to the start of last year, Harris was compared to Bell by Izzo.
Freshmen Alvin Ellis and Gavin Schilling might sneak into this race.
Ellis, a 3-star rated shooting guard, has impressed thus far.
Spartans assistant Dane Fife recently said the following about Ellis' progress (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung):
He's got to learn the X's and O's and all those things, but we're...really pleased with Alvin Ellis and his progress. He's got quite a few guys that he's competing with for playing time, but nonetheless, I think that Alvin's ball skills, Alvin's creativity...he's a playmaker. And I think for years to come, the Michigan State fan base is going to be very excited watching him.
That description has "sixth man of the year" written all over it. But the same can be said for Schilling, a 3-star power forward.
Fife said the following about Schilling (via Leung):
There's a certain way that we expect Michigan State players to play, and Gavin, that's his foundation. Now learning what we do offensively and defensively and our philosophy takes time as it will in every program, but Gavin's got a great base in terms of what Michigan State Spartans have as a foundation.
That's been the impressive part. Gavin's tough. He's physical. He's not afraid of contact. He's willing to learn and very coachable, so we're really pleased with that.
That's promising talk from Fife, who knows all about guys who bang in the trenches. He was known for doing so during his basketball career.
Ellis and Schilling are viable candidates for sixth-man honors, but don't forget about Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice could also be an option. Valentine, though, seems the most likely. He led the Spartans' bench with five points per game last season and provided excellent passing and post defense.
At 6'5", Valentine isn't afraid to wander into the paint and trade blows. He's a fit just about anywhere on the floor.
As for the most improved, well, that's also difficult to predict. But let's assume that Harris has an incredible season and claims national awards. He'd take the team's MIP award without issue. However, sophomore center Matt Costello could duke it out with Harris for the hardware.
Costello, a 6'9" former Bay City Western standout, showed an upped level of play during the NCAA tournament. If that style carries over to this season, he'll be contender for MIP and/or sixth man trophies.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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