Izzo: Playing again is way to honor MSU victims

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo said Thursday it was clear that his team wanted to “get back on the floor” this week in the wake of a fatal campus shooting that claimed three lives and shut down all campus activities at the school for several days.

Izzo said he and his team have spent the past several days attempting to find a balance between processing the trauma of Monday night’s shooting with a desire to return to some form of normalcy. The Spartans met at Izzo’s home Tuesday morning to let players know how to access mental health resources if needed and to discuss a path forward. He said the team did not consider canceling Saturday night’s upcoming road game against Michigan.

“You have to figure out a way to honor the people who were senselessly killed, and our way of being able to do that is to play the game,” Izzo said during a news conference Thursday night.

Three students were killed and five others remain hospitalized after a 43-year-old man unaffiliated with the university opened fire in a classroom building and at the student union Monday night, according to police. The campus was locked down for several hours until police announced that the suspected shooter took his own life, when confronted by law enforcement.

Michigan State canceled all campus activities — including games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams — earlier in the week. Sporting events will resume for the Spartans on Friday, and students will return to class next week. Izzo said his team practiced Wednesday and Thursday. He said he spoke with mental health professionals to get advice on how to approach a return to basketball.

“[The players] felt that if they played it would help not only themselves [but] maybe the campus heal a little bit,” he said. “…We also know everybody grieves different and everybody processes trauma in a million different ways.”

Izzo told his team that any emotions they’re feeling this week are valid. He shared the same sentiment Wednesday night while speaking to thousands of students, alumni and community members that gathered on campus for a vigil. He said that being a part of the vigil was “one of the more moving moments” of his 40-year career at Michigan State.

Izzo said a long list of other coaches have reached out to him and others at Michigan State to offer their help and support, including Michigan men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard. The Wolverines are planning several ways to show support to their in-state rivals on Saturday night, including a moment of silence, wearing green-and-white warm-up shirts and playing Michigan State’s alma mater at the game.

“Does it help? Of course it helps,” Izzo said when asked about the messages he and others have received this week.

Michigan State’s women’s basketball team will host Maryland in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon. Several other Spartan teams resumed traveling to their scheduled games on Thursday and will play this weekend.

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