EAST LANSING — Foster Loyer’s role on the bench during his three-game injury absence has impressed Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.
What Loyer’s role might be the rest of the season, now that the Spartans appear to have found some offensive rhythm in his absence, remains uncertain. But not as unclear as the health of his arm.
Izzo on Friday said his junior point guard’s left shoulder injury continues to bother him, and they consulted earlier that day with medical experts on what to do next.
“There will be some decisions made on whether he does need surgery. And if he does, would it be sooner rather than later?” Izzo said. “So right now, we're in the consulting stage with doctors and specialists. If he could play, he'd play. And when he says he can't play – and that started a couple of games before it was bad – I know that it's a problem.”
MSU (13-9, 7-9 Big Ten) has won all three games since its co-captain was sidelined last week. He suffered the injury in a Feb. 6 win over Nebraska and aggravated it three nights later in a win over Penn State. He played 20 scoreless minutes in the Spartans’ 30-point loss to Iowa on Feb. 13 and just 2 scoreless minutes in a loss at Purdue on Feb. 16 before the pain forced him to the bench.
Loyer has averaged 3 points and 2.2 assists in 15.8 minutes a game during Big Ten play. Size against bigger guards has been an issue defensively, too, for the 6-foot, 170-pound Clarkston product.
A decision about playing through the injury or having surgery could take a few days, Izzo said, adding Loyer could try and shoot Saturday to test his pain level and tolerance.
“What the MRI showed, it might be hard to come back,” Izzo said. “So if he does, it would be a bonus for us.... But the way it happened, and what happened, where it actually popped out I guess, things are not looking good that he will be able to. So believe it or not, that'll hurt us a little bit. There's times that we really need him.”
MSU travels to Maryland for Sunday's 2 p.m. game (CBS). The Spartans will then host Indiana on Tuesday, before closing at No. 3 Michigan on Thursday and hosting the Wolverines on March 7 in the regular-season finale.
Izzo has returned to Rocket Watts at point guard with a more athletic lineup that has featured Aaron Henry at small forward and Gabe Brown on the wing. He also has used shooting guard Joshua Langford and Henry running the offense to take pressure off Watts, with Henry taking over the point in the final minutes of Thursday’s 71-67 upset of No. 5 Ohio State.
Freshman A.J. Hoggard also continues to play an expanded role, including his six-point, six-assist, three-rebound performance against the Buckeyes.
“I don't think it's really changed anything individually,” Hoggard said. “Everyone's comfortable with everybody, so it doesn't matter who starts. We just all want to have the same end goal., so it doesn't matter who's out there. We're just all fighting for one another and pulling for one another.”
That includes Loyer on the bench as he watches Watts, Hoggard and his fellow captains Henry and Langford handle the minutes he is missing while hurt.
However, Izzo said he was not happy with how Watts and Hoggard played against the Buckeyes, part of the reason he went to Henry late. After a breakout 13-point, five-assist game in Tuesday’s 81-72 upset of No. 4 Illinois, Watts went 1-for-10 and sat almost all of the final 11:28 against Ohio State until returning on offense with 14 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes looking to foul.
“People shouldn't get fooled that we've won some games (without Loyer) — we won some games because Gabe and Josh have played at a different level,” Izzo said. “I mean, last night our point guards did not play very well, did not shoot very well. And I think Frosty could have helped that a lot.”
Izzo has raved about how Loyer has handled his time on the bench, saying he has become like an assistant coach as he helps Watts and Hoggard assume his minutes as he waits to find out his future for the rest of the season.
“Foster Loyer's been so good on that bench, man,” Izzo said after the OSU game. “He's got play sheets and play cards. And, God, my captains have acted like captains. And that is so good to see people grow, not just as players. They're all really good students, but they've all grown as people. And for that, I'm proud.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball's Foster Loyer could need shoulder surgery