Tom Izzo has had football players play basketball on his team going back to his early years when Nick Saban was the Spartans’ football.
He had them in subsequent years, under John L. Smith and Mark Dantonio, too.
Now, Izzo is set to have the latest player cross Shaw Lane and play at the Breslin Center in the second year of Mel Tucker’s tenure at Michigan State.
Keon Coleman, a three-star wide receiver prospect from Louisiana, signed his letter of intent with the Spartans football program on Wednesday and made it clear that he plans on playing basketball as well as football.
More than 10 years after Michigan State had its last football/basketball dual-sport athlete, Izzo is excited to have one again.
“I love two-sport guys,” Izzo said on Thursday. “I’ve loved two-sport guys since I was one myself at a very small, small school. I’ve always appreciated guys that played football, I think it’s still a tougher sport, when you’ve got one of those guys around I think it benefits you.”
Izzo said Coleman first came on his radar last summer thanks to Tucker, who informed his counterpart of the recruit’s interest in basketball as well as football.
Izzo and Coleman soon started talking, with Coleman contacting Izzo often about playing basketball. Those talks culminated on Tuesday, when the two touched base before the Spartans’ game against Iowa and Coleman told Izzo he was planning on signing with the Spartans the following day.
“He told me that he really felt like he was thinking of coming here the next day,” Izzo said. So I talked to Mel, that was pretty exciting.”
The last player to suit up for both the Spartans’ football and basketball teams was Dion Sims, who played one game in 2010. Before that, Deon Curry, who was a member of the 2006-07 Spartans team shortly after Dantonio’s arrival. Matt Trannon pulled double duty shortly before that under John L. Smith.
No player has done it since then, in large part due to the increased volume of individual work athletes do now, Izzo said. But Coleman will have the opportunity to end that drought if he chooses.
“Who knows what that will bring for Keon, but I know Mel for sure gave him the opportunity and I know I sure gave him the opportunity that he will be able to try that if that’s what he wants to do,” Izzo said.
“Hopefully Keon will finish out this year, get here and let Mel beat him up a little bit and then send him over to me for some rehab.”