Tom Izzo

Who is Michigan State’s leader this season?

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Tom Izzo is used to being vocal. As you can see by the photo of Izzo with the microphone, he’s very well-accustomed to addressing the Michigan State faithful and his own team.

Now that Michigan State enters the 2013-14 season with incredibly high expectations — multiple publications have listed the Spartans as their preseason No. 1 team — they’re searching for a vocal leader that isn’t Tom Izzo.

Although the Spartans return four starters and a lot of experience after last season’s brutal Big Ten stretch, one of the major questions they have entering the season is who will lead them on the floor.

The Spartans began practice yesterday and as the AP’s Larry Lage reported, Izzo is still searching for the leader(s) of this year’s Michigan State team.

While Izzo is fired up about his talented and experienced roster, he isn’t sure who his leaders will be this season.

“We just actually met for an hour about it,” Izzo said before practice.

None of the four returning starters — Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson or Harris — is considered a natural leader, but Izzo wants at least one of them to become more vocal.

“I’m not into leading by example at all,” Izzo said. “Cop out. Hate it. Despise it.”

The lack of a true leader at this point in the season isn’t a make-or-break proposition by any means, but it is interesting that a team considered by many to be No. 1 has uncertainty.

I’m sure the Spartans would just be happy if Branden Dawson and Gary Harris stayed healthy through the whole season and Adreian Payne and Keith Appling performed up to expectations during every game, but finding a vocal leader will be one of many interesting storylines surrounding Michigan State early in the season.

Lage noted in the story that Gary Harris is close to returning from his sprained ankle, with Izzo saying, “It’s so early in the year, I think he’s a week away from doing anything physical.”

When Harris returns to health — and returns to form — he could be the Spartans’ best player, and ideally their vocal leader, before he potentially leaves East Lansing for the NBA Draft after the season.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.