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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Adam Steinhauer, Marketing Director • May 10, 2024
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Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Adam Steinhauer, Marketing Director • May 10, 2024
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Eagle Spirit dancer Migizii Kwe dances with the audience at this years East Lansing Art Festival. Photo credit: Samantha Ku/WDBM
2024 East Lansing Art Festival Q&A
Samantha Ku, Writer/Volunteer • May 18, 2024

Heather Majano is the Art Festival & Arts Initiative Coordinator under the East Lansing Parks, Recreation & Arts department, she...

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Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Adam Steinhauer, Marketing Director • May 10, 2024
View All
Eagle Spirit dancer Migizii Kwe dances with the audience at this years East Lansing Art Festival. Photo credit: Samantha Ku/WDBM
2024 East Lansing Art Festival Q&A
Samantha Ku, Writer/Volunteer • May 18, 2024

Heather Majano is the Art Festival & Arts Initiative Coordinator under the East Lansing Parks, Recreation & Arts department, she...

“It feels great to be a part of this.” MSU’s freshmen prepare for NCAA Tournament debut

MSU+freshman+forwards+Coen+Carr+%28left%29+and+Xavier+Booker+%28right%29+participate+in+the+Spartans+open+practice+on+Wednesday%2C+Mar.+20%2C+2024+at+the+Spectrum+Center+in+Charlotte%2C+NC.+
Jack Moreland
MSU freshman forwards Coen Carr (left) and Xavier Booker (right) participate in the Spartans’ open practice on Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2024 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On the night of Feb. 25, Tom Izzo stood at the podium of the Breslin Center in shock. 

His team, which had opened the season ranked inside the top five of the AP Poll, was sitting just above .500 in the Big Ten and had just suffered a stunning upset loss at the buzzer, against an Ohio State team that had fired its head coach less than two weeks ago. 

“I would say this one stings about as much as any loss I’ve had in the last eight or ten years,” Izzo said after the loss. 

In the weeks after, MSU found itself in dangerous territory of failing to make the NCAA Tournament, jeopardizing Izzo’s streak of 25 consecutive tournament appearances, with a roster laden with veterans who were eager at one more chance at a run in March. 

With a win over Northwestern after the loss on that night in February, coupled with a win in the Big Ten Tournament last week, MSU found its way into the Big Dance.

26 years and counting. 

After an inconsistent season where MSU’s long-standing streak appeared to be in doubt, the Spartans clinched the ninth-seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face off against No. 8 seed Mississippi State in the first round on Thursday.

MSU freshman forward Xavier Booker hits a three-pointer in his first career start against Ohio State on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024 at the Breslin Center. (Jack Moreland) (Jack Moreland)

MSU’s core group of upperclassmen will hope to lead the way in what will likely be their final run before taking their basketball careers to the next level. Senior guard AJ Hoggard, graduate guard Tyson Walker, graduate forward Malik Hall, senior Mady Sissoko and more will have one last chance to avenge last year’s loss in the Sweet 16 to Kansas State, where MSU fell just short of advancing, losing 98-93 in overtime. 

For as much attention as the aforementioned group has drawn, the two freshmen in MSU’s rotation have quietly taken exponential steps this season, and will make their NCAA Tournament debuts this week. 

“It feels good,” said freshman Xavier Booker. “I’ve been watching this since I was little. It feels great to be a part of this.”

Competing in one of the toughest schedules in college basketball, Coen Carr and Xavier Booker have emerged as indispensable pieces to MSU’s bench unit, where both have overcome sets of struggles to provide meaningful minutes in portions of the season. 

Carr, who hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in the last 12 games, doesn’t often make an impact in the stat sheet. The 6’6 forward has served as a spark plug for a team with a relatively thin bench, by generating explosive plays in transition, along with his relentless hustle on defense.

MSU freshman forward Coen Carr throws down a dunk against USI on Thursday, November 9, 2023 at the Breslin Center. (Jack Moreland)

“I just try to keep the same mindset,” said Carr. “I’ve just been trying to keep the same mindset. Playing hard, whether it’s not about scoring points. Even if I don’t get a rebound. I might not get a stat, just going in there, controlling the game. Just doing the little things that matter.”

For Carr, rebounding the ball at a more consistent level has been a primary focus. Even in limited minutes, the freshman has generated highlight-reel plays off of putback slams. 

“Crashing the glass, especially on the offensive side,” said Carr when asked what the coaching staff has communicated with him most about. 

“Every time a shot goes up, crashing the glass because [the coaching staff] knows I can make something happen.”

Carr attributed multiple aspects to his increased success on the boards as the season has progressed.

“Knowing where the ball is gonna go, how it’s going to come off the rim, kinda knowing the right spots to be in,” said Carr. 

MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo (right) talks to freshman forward Coen Carr during a win over Indiana State on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023 at the Breslin Center. (Jack Moreland) (Jack Moreland)

Carr also pointed out that he’s tweaked his shooting motion, and his routine from the free-throw line. 

“Sometimes I bring [the ball] behind my head,” said Carr. “I try to keep the ball in front of me, keep a good pocket. And not take as many dribbles. I only do one dribble now, I used to do three. So just keep it simple. One dribble, and just be confident in it, for sure.” 

“Most of the time when I go to the rim I’m getting fouled,” said Carr. “So just really trying to make sure I capitalize on those opportunities of making my free throws.” 

After MSU’s loss in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal to Purdue last week, Carr noted one lesson he wanted to take into the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Every possession matters,” said Carr. “Even after when we lost, just watching the other games and how close they were, how competitive they were. Just knowing that every play matters, and going out and playing your hardest really.” 

MSU freshman center Xavier Booker dunks the ball against Stony Brook on Thursday, December 21, 2023 at the Breslin Center. (Cole Pannell)

Booker, who has seen an uptick in minutes in the second half of conference play, has begun to find his rhythm on both ends of the floor, and has posed matchup problems for opposing teams with his ability to stretch the floor. The freshman is averaging 3.6 points and 1.6 rebounds, while playing nine minutes per game. 

“Honestly, I haven’t really had too much trouble on offense,” said Booker. “I’ve always been able to be in the right spots in the offense, and kind of just flow into everything. Obviously I don’t know everything yet, because obviously college and high school is a different level. I feel like over time what’s helped me is just more experience with the game.” 

Booker also had a similar theme to Carr from his first Big Ten Tournament. 

“Very competitive,” said Booker. “Very physical. I can definitely translate that over to the [NCAA Tournament]. I’m sure it’s gonna be ten times that. People are playing obviously for national championships….me and the rest of the team gotta bring it.”

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About the Contributors
A.J. Evans
A.J. Evans, Sports Editor
A.J. Evans (He/Him/His) is the Sports Editor at Impact 89FM. He is from Southfield, Michigan and is majoring in journalism. He has covered football, women's and men's basketball for the Impact. “Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase sky’s the limit….see you chumps on top.” - Biggie  
Jack Moreland
Jack Moreland, Sports Photo Editor
Jack (he/him) is a Journalism major focusing in sports reporting and media photography. Growing up in nearby Okemos, Michigan, he has been a lifelong Spartan and is proud to sport the green and white. Jack is a big Baby Keem fan and is known to post on your block with your wishlist on you.

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