Michigan State guard Tum Tum Nairn Jr.’s senior season is already different than any of his previous years at the school. That’s because when the Spartans tip off later this week, Michigan State will be ranked second overall in the preseason polls, the highest ranking they’ve had heading into a season since Nairn came to East Lansing. Joining The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday, the senior captain talked about the hype that comes with the preseason ranking and playing for a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo.
“You’ve got to appreciate the fact that people think that highly of you,” Nairn Jr. told CBS Sports Radio. “Because of the program, what Coach (Izzo) and his staff have done over the years. Don’t take it as a burden, you can enjoy being in a situation like that. Obviously when you step out on the floor you want to put enough time and effort into doing the best that you can to ultimately win it all. And that’s always going to be the goal at Michigan State. To play for championships, and win a national championship.”
After making it to the Final Four as a freshman, Nairn Jr. is aiming to make another tournament run after failing to make it to the Sweet 16 the past two seasons. He thinks the chemistry this team has developed, between both players and coaches, will be a key.
“I think this year, we have a lot of special players, we have a lot of people that put in time,” Nairn said. “We have a coaching staff that really loves and cares about the players and is going to hold us accountable each and every day. So I feel like we can control the things that we can coming into the season, and just work as hard as we can every single day, everything else will take care of itself.”
Izzo has gone on record with tremendous praise of Nairn Jr., putting the third-year captain’s leadership skills with the best he’s ever had on any of his previous teams. Izzo characterized Nairn Jr. as “a special kid”, humbling the native Bahamian.
“For Coach (Izzo) to say that about me, when you hear people talk about you like that, you always take a step back, and just understand it’s a blessing from God,” Nairn Jr. said. “It really humbles me to hear that because of all of the great leaders that have been here, just to hear him say that means a lot to me.
“But what I want people to remember about me is just a guy that gave everything he had every single night. But I want people to remember me also as a guy when his teammates look to the left, whenever they see me on and off the floor, they know I have their best interests at heart and I’m there for them just as much.”
Entering his final year at Michigan State, Nairn Jr. can’t believe it’s already the start of his senior season.
“I’m always a guy that lives in the moment. I appreciate every second of every day that I get to see, that I get to be alive,” Nairn Jr. said. “But my senior night, has always been a night that I kind of want to come, but didn’t want to come. Because of what Michigan State basketball, this program and this community means to me, what’s it done for me and my life. I’m just going to be honest with you, man, it’s going to be really really hard, and I think about it every single day.”