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March 20, 2011

And now, to look ahead

To a 2011-12 MSU hoops season that will start with lower expectations than usual -- even though the roster will have some talent. Note the player-by-player glances down the left side. Also, we're looking ahead to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the MSU women's basketball team.

    Chris Solari is on the scene in Wichita, and if someone were filming him it could be a sequel called "Planes, Tranes, Automobiles and Cheesy Fries." Hopefully we'll get him to log in here over the next few days and give us some thoughts on Suzy Merchant's crew. Here's his tipoff and a look at a senior point guard who will be key. They usually are.

    Now, to empty the notebook. I was able to blast through the locker room after the UCLA loss to get some quick thoughts from most of next season's returnees. I asked Alex Gauna if he thinks he can be a player in the mold of Goran Suton some day. A couple feet away, Russell Byrd piped in: "Better than Suton."

    "Jon Leuer Jr.," added Garrick Sherman.

        “Whatever they just said, Jon Leuer Jr. I guess," Gauna said. "I’m gonna try to improve my shooting because that is a skill of mine and I’d like to run with that.”

    More from Gauna, on his offseason priorities:   “Continuing to get stronger, just improve my overall game. Hopefully I can offer something else different. I’ve been talked about as a pick-and-pop guy since I got here. Hopefully I can capitalize on that opportunity.”

    Gauna on sitting out: “The hardest thing to do is sit there and watch and not be able to do anything, but that’s out of my control. I’m just looking forward to next year, it’s gonna be a work in progress. It’s been a rough season, I didn’t expect it. We come in every year thinking we’re gonna win a championship regardless, so I’m very excited for the opportunity to work toward that goal.”

      Delvon Roe -- who finally can approach an offseason thinking about his game rather than an upcoming surgery -- on what he needs to do: “I need to develop a mid-range jump shot. I think if I could develop that I’d be so much tougher to guard. Still get better with my right hand and do some more ballhandling, stuff like that. But I think I need to get that 10-, 12-foot jump shot.”

    Roe on next season's team: “A new team, completely different team. A team with two seniors, really. We’re gonna have to take the young guys and mold them.”

    Sherman on the competition for minutes in the frontcourt: "We have a lot of talented bigs and that’s a good thing for this program. ... Expectations are the same every year, we want to get to the Final Four. We’re good enough to do it, we’ve just got to work toward it.”

    Keith Appling on the summer ahead and how his role for next season looks different now than it did a couple months ago: “I’m just going into this summer trying to work on my game as much as I can. Get stronger and try to become a better point guard. ... With the dismissal of Korie, that kind of changed it a lot. Now I can just work on being a point guard.”

    Derrick Nix on the road to weight loss/maintenance: “Just got to stay consistent throughout the whole year. Just diet, exercising every day, staying away from fast food.”

    Russell Byrd on sitting out: “It was tough at first but then you realize you’ve got to take advantage of the situation and you can learn a lot. So I learned a lot this year. And next year, just can’t wait to get working in the summer and see what next year brings.”

    Byrd on what this team needs: “We’ve just got to come together, no matter who it is. We’ve just got to be a team and come together.”

    Adreian Payne on his offseason goals: “Just getting stronger, you know, and being able to finish around the basket. I can also work on some ballhandling skills so I can handle the ball better, and just be a leader.”

    Payne, asked to characterize his freshman season: “Just frustrations. We went through a lot of stuff and we just don’t want to be back here and not advancing. Just (need to) have a better season.”

    Draymond Green, asked why he thinks MSU can be "great" in 2011-12:  “I think we’ll have the talent and we’ll have the intangibles. I feel like it’s gonna fall on my shoulders. If I do a great job leading, I think this team can be great.”

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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