Meet the Spartans: Michigan State Men’s Basketball Sophomores


Dec 31, 2011; Lincoln, NE, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Branden Dawson (22) shoots over Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Brandon Richardson (3) during the first half at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Ryerson-USA TODAY Sports

While many of the freshmen basketball players on the MSU Spartans team have been on fire, the sophomores are also a notable bunch. There are four sophomores and two red shirt sophomores on the team. The sophomores have had much more experience with Tom Izzo’s expectations, and they’ve had a full season of basketball behind him. It’s only natural that they are more on-task than the freshmen.

#0 Russell Byrd, Guard

Russell Byrd, a 6’7″ guard underwent three surgeries on his left foot in the 2010-2011 seasons. While that was enough to keep him out of what would have been his first year of college ball, Byrd has since recovered. In his 2011-2012 season, he appeared in 27 games and averaged 5.5 minutes per game. He isn’t a big scorer, but he was ranked sixth on the team and known for his three-pointers.

This year, Byrd, co-captain of the team, has attracted the attention of other teams and recently received more than 30 different scholarship offers to play ball with other teams including the rival Michigan Wolverines team. Regardless of the other offers, Byrd has stated he plans to remain faithful to the team he started with. Izzo plans to continue to work with Byrd who has been having a hard time making those three-point shots. He continues to improve. It will be interesting to see how he finishes out the season and what he does in his junior year with the Spartans.

#22 Brandon Dawson, Guard

If you don’t know this name, you haven’t been following MSU basketball for very long. This 6’6″ guard has not only made a name for himself on the court, but he’s also been involved with several recent controversies.  Most recently, he and roommate/teammate Adreian Payne exchanged blows in a hotel room prior to the Penn State game. He was also accused of throwing a punch at an opposing team member during the Purdue game earlier this month. Whether Dawson actually did these things or not, one thing’s for sure, he plays a very physical game.

He suffered from an ACL injury in March of 2012, though by watching the way he moves the ball down the court, you wouldn’t know it – except when a couple weeks ago he went up for a dunk and twisted his knee. Luckily for him, it was just a scare. He’s been ranked the number 5 small forward by Lindy’s, he defends multiple positions, and during his freshman year, he was ranked fourth on the team in terms of field goal percentage .577.

This year, Dawson has been hitting the field goals in double digits during the Big Ten Conference games. He averages 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Losing him during a game makes a big difference in the outcome.

#2 Alex Gauna, Forward

If the 6’9″ player from Eaton Rapids, Michigan doesn’t look familiar to you, well that’s because he hasn’t spent a whole lot of time on the court. Guana has only averaged about 6.6 minutes per game, just a bit more than teammate Russell Byrd. Even though he doesn’t spend a lot of time on the court during games, he does have a decent field goal average (.552 this year). He’s also an effective rebounder, and he’s good at being thrown in the game when necessary.

Jan 27 2013, Bloomington, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Travis Trice (20) takes a shot against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. Indiana defeats Michigan State 75-70. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

#20 Travis Trice, Guard

This 6’0″ player is known for his ability to shoot from deep in the field. Travis Trice averages about 20 minutes a game. You may recall the mask he wore for part of the season. The season opener was a bit rough and he suffered a concussion and a broken nose during it. His field goal average this season is .313, but his 3 point percentage is .415 – not bad for a guy who was out for a while due to an injury. Trice, for sure, is a key player for the Spartans.

He is the son of a high school basketball coach, and it has been noted that Trice is developing a good deal of leadership qualities out on the court. His freshman year, he led the three point percentage for Big Ten Conference teams. He also ranked forth on the team for assists. He will definitely continue to develop as a player during his junior year.

#15 Keenan Wetzel, Guard

Wetzel, 6’4″ and from Monroe, Michigan, was a walk on during the 2011-2012 season. He really doesn’t play a whole lot (in fact, when I was looking at the roster I thought to myself, “Who?” Thus far, in the 2012-2013 season, Wetzel has played 5 minutes. Last year, he played for 12 game minutes.

#41 Colby Wollenman, Forward

Wollenman is another walk on. He appeared in 9 games during his first season. He hasn’t played in a game yet during this season.

What are your impressions of the MSU Spartans basketball sophomores? Are you happy with how they have been playing this season?