The NCAA doesn't keep statistics in this category, but Spartans
point guard Chris Hill surely set some kind of record last season
for--how can we put this delicately?--tossing his cookies. As a
freshman Hill had an unpleasant three-game streak in which he
couldn't get through a game without throwing up. The flu caused
him to vomit on the court during a game against Seton Hall, and a
case of nerves got to him before he faced Stanford and Minnesota.
Hill's teammates took the opportunity to get in a little ribbing,
loading him down with air-sickness bags on plane trips and
nicknaming him Willie Beamen, after the Jamie Foxx character in
the movie Any Given Sunday who threw up before games. But anyone
who wants the ball would be wise to stay on his good side this
season, because Hill will be running the offense in place of
Marcus Taylor, last year's leading scorer (16.8 points per game),
who left for the NBA after his sophomore season.
Fortunately for the Spartans, Taylor was the team's only key
loss. They still have power forward Adam Ballinger and center
Aloysius Anagonye, a pair of tough senior rebounders, and
sophomore shooting guard Kelvin Torbert, the blue-chip recruit of
two years ago whom coach Tom Izzo is expecting to emerge as a
star. There is enough talent to give Michigan State realistic
dreams of returning to the Final Four, which it reached three
straight times before losing to North Carolina State in the first
round of last year's tournament. The Spartans certainly appear to
have their swagger back. Izzo kicked off Midnight Madness by
descending from the ceiling of the Breslin Center dressed like
Bruce Springsteen and dancing to a parody of Born in the U.S.A.
Michigan State's first order of business is to win the Big Ten
title, which would bring a special satisfaction to Hill, an
Indiana native who wasn't recruited by Indiana or Purdue. The
Spartans' coaches weren't convinced that he was worth signing,
either, until Izzo watched him at a 6:30 a.m. workout during
Hill's senior year at Lawrence North High. "I could tell from
watching him that this kid was a winner," Izzo says.
Izzo was right. The only thing that Hill loses with any
regularity seems to be his lunch. --P.T.
COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN KEEP AWAY Ballinger was the toughest of the rough-and-tumble Spartans, with a team-high 6.8 boards a game.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Alan Anderson 6'6" So. 40.0 3FG%
PF Adam Ballinger 6'9" Sr. 11.5 ppg
C Aloysius Anagonye 6'8" Sr. 6.3 rpg
SG Kelvin Torbert 6'4" So. 8.2 ppg
PG Chris Hill 6'3" So. 44.6 3FG%
2001-02 RECORD: 19-12, (10-6, 5th in Big Ten)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to N.C. State in 1st round
The Spartans' winning percentage in NCAA tournament play under
Tom Izzo (16-4), best among active coaches.
An opposing coach's view
Disciplined and well-coached, the Spartans are a tough matchup
"Chris Hill is a good leader, and his shooting stroke reminds me
of Allan Houston's, but last year he needed work on his lefthand
dribble.... Aloysius Anagonye is the anchor down low and a solid
rebounder. His problem is foul trouble.... Kelvin Torbert creates
matchup problems outside because of his size and quickness. He
came in with a lot of hype last year and didn't meet
expectations, but he should be better this year.... Adam
Ballinger is part of a long line of Michigan State big guys
who've been able to set a screen, step away and hit the three....
They remind me of an NBA team in the number of pro-type sets they
run, and they have great balance between their transition and
half-court games. You have to get back on defense because they
run their fast break better than anyone else in the Big Ten."