Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr has moved to the forefront as a leader for the Michigan State Spartans and in his upcoming junior year, head coach Tom Izzo expects him to have his greatest impact on the younger members of the programme.
Following the Spartans first practice for the 2016-17 season, Izzo addressed a number of issues surrounding the team, highlighted by Nairn’s impact.
“I think ‘Tum has been an unbelievable asset in a lot of different ways. Not only is he playing better, but he and Cassius (Winston) – there has been a bond there. ‘Tum’ has taken some of those freshman under his wing, just like Denzel (Valentine) did. Chemistry is – I think you are going to hear from a lot of people – it just keeps getting better here the last couple of years. Not that it was ever bad, but it is reaching new heights and that is a positive,” he said, “I think we have built a damn good culture. And the culture is going to have its flaws and we are going to go up and down a little bit here and there. But, the culture is special and I think the guys are buying into it. I think our former guys have led the way. That is why you never want to forget them. Our current guys are appreciating it and I have seen big growth from our freshmen in that area and I do give ‘Tum’ a lot of credit. I think he has been incredible.”
The Spartans enter the season with the No.3 recruiting class in the country according to the final rankings released in June by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index.
The talented group of incoming freshman includes five star swingmen Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford along with four star point guard Cassius Winston.
Izzo was asked if one of his most highly touted incoming freshmen classes ever would cause fans to overlook Nairn this season.
“I don’t know if overlooked would be a good word. I think he is appreciated by… It’ll be interesting the first time you interview Cassius to see what ‘Tum’ has done for him or even Miles or Josh (Langford). So, that is part on the court, too. But, has his play been good? He is shooting it better. He is playing better. I think he played better because he is healthier,” he said, “I think the biggest thing he has got to overcome now, believe it or not, is getting the confidence back. I think last year was a tough year for him. We just look at him and he is such a tough kid and such a strong kid and is such a pleasant kid. But, those kinds of kids have confidence problems, too. I think sometimes he is missing shots because he is not quite there. That is where the everyday practice and being under some pressure to score and make shots is going to help him. With him and Cassius, the neat thing is that we have two guys that are kind of different. One is very athletic and very strong. The other is very crafty and very savvy. One is a very good shooter and one is getting to be a better shooter. One is a great defender and the one has got to work on his defense. So, I think they complement and help each other. I am not worried about ‘Tum’.”
Anticipating a healthy season, Nairn is pegged as one of the upperclassmen leaders of his Spartans.
The junior point guard struggled through an injury plagued sophomore year, but Nairn has looked healthy enough this summer to deliver a series of impressive performances at the Moneyball Pro-Am this summer.
Nairn made several jumpers from three point range and even threw down a fastbreak dunk in the title game, a welcome site to the Spartan faithful who wintnessed last season’s struggles with the foot injury.
Despite a season hampered by injury, “Tum Tum” was still recognised by his Spartans for his leadership attributes.
Nairn was awarded the Stephen G Scofes Inspirational Player Award for the second straight season when the Spartans programme hosted its annual Men’s Basketball Awards Banquet for the 2015-16 season.
He battled a nagging plantar fasciitis injury all season long but missed just seven games, while ranking among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (7th, 3.78).
In 28 games played last season, Nairn averaged 2.8 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Prior to the injury, Nairn started all 18 games at point guard and averaged 4.1 points and 4.5 assists in 24.1 minutes per game.
He was sidelined for seven games before making a return to the court on February 14.
With him sidelined, the Spartans had dropped four spots in the poll and had went 4-3 in that timespan.
After the injury he played sparingly at just an average of 8.3 minutes per game with a high of 14 minutes against Penn State, but the Spartans won nine straight when he returned.
The Spartans schedule this season will include a tough non conference schedule and an appearance at the Battle 4 Atlantis in November.
“It should be an exciting year. I think that start is going to be… I have to make sure I remind myself not to listen. I am never a guy that listens too much once the season starts. I can promise you, with respect to everyone in this room, I will not be reading, looking or listening to any of you early on, because I think it is going to be a tough go. That doesn’t mean winning games or losing games. That means surviving how we play. It is going to be interesting, but it is going to be fun. If you are following us, you are going to get to go to some places. Some of them you probably won’t get to go to them because I know what budget restraints are now,” Izzo said, “Do I like going to Hawaii for one game? No, but a pretty neat tournament to be in. Do I like going to the Bahamas? Probably yes, because the wife and kids are somewhat important, even during basketball season. So, that will please them. Do I want to play Duke and Kentucky? 100 percent. I think I still would like to be scheduling home-and-homes more. I am going to work on that. I am going to work on the Big Ten schedule in the future. Then, for the next three weeks now, I am going to enjoy watching football and getting my team ready.”