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Hall, Walker near return; MSU has a pair of McDonald's All-America selections


East Lansing — Monday was an odd day around the Michigan State basketball offices in the Breslin Center.

That’s because the players finally got a day off.

The breaks have been few and far between, as Michigan State played three games last week and wrapped up a stretch of six games in 16 days with Sunday’s loss at Indiana. But with the next game not scheduled until the Spartans host Iowa Thursday, it was a chance for a worn-out team to recharge.

“I think we're in a pretty good spot,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Tuesday, after spending plenty of the ‘off’ day on film work. “We got a day off … and that will give us a little bit of a break.”

It surely isn’t a long rest, but it’s one the Spartans (13-7, 5-4 Big Ten) will take. And when they do walk on the court again, there’s a chance they’ll do so with a complete roster — well, as complete as it can be with just 10 scholarship players.

That’s because guard Tyson Walker, who was slowed over the weekend by a stomach virus, is nearly back to 100%, and forward Malik Hall is a step closer to getting back on the court.

“I think we’re in a pretty good spot as far as our health goes,” Izzo said. “Tyson, I think, is back to about 90%. He’s good; there’s just a little weakness from the two, three days when he didn't eat. But, he started eating yesterday, so that was encouraging, and hopefully, he'll get back (Tuesday) and practice. Malik, we're hoping that he will practice a little bit. How much? Your guess is as good as mine, but at least he's on the slate to be able to practice a little bit, and that would be big.”

Izzo was speaking Tuesday morning and by the afternoon, Hall was, indeed, practicing, but it was limited, leaving his status for the Iowa game Thursday up in the air, as well as Sunday’s trip to No. 1 Purdue.

Hall’s season has been hijacked, essentially, by the stress-reaction injury in his left foot. Hall played the first four games of the season before the injury was discovered and he missed the next eight games. Hall returned to the lineup just before the first of the year, but in his fifth game back, at Illinois, Hall aggravated the injury and has been out since.

In total, Hall has played only nine of Michigan State’s 20 games this season.

“We haven't had Malik all year,” Izzo said. “I mean, we really have had Malik only for a couple of games. … When something is broken, you can sit there and say, ‘OK, it’s eight weeks to 10 weeks and then we’re good to go. With this injury, it's not broken, but it's been different. And so the only thing we can do is we can get medical advice … and then, it still comes down to how does he feel?

“And so I am putting that aside. I think it's a major; there is no question that Malik Hall is penciled in to play 30 minutes a game, minimum. So, that's 30 minutes you have to find from other guys."

The production from other players has been spread out and sporadic, at times. Izzo has been pushing sophomore Pierre Brooks to take a big step and fill the void, but Brooks has entered a shooting slump and some defensive breakdowns have made it hard to play him extended minutes.

The Spartans have also, at times, gone with two big players, using freshman Carson Cooper at the power-forward position with junior Mady Sissoko or freshman Jaxon Kohler at center.

What happens more often, though, is guys like senior Joey Hauser play heavy minutes, something that can be difficult to sustain over the long haul.

“(Hall) coming back would be exciting to me because I think it would help Joey, and I think it would help our young freshmen,” Izzo said. “And the other guy we’ve been playing to death, and maybe that's why he got run down, is Tyson. Joey and Tyson have played the most minutes in that grueling schedule, and I think it just kind of wore them down. So, I worry about Joey a little bit, too, and Malik could help that a lot.”

Whether that’s against the Hawkeyes (12-7, 4-4) or another game down the road remains to be seen. But when Hall does get back, the Spartans are confident it will provide a shot of adrenaline for the stretch drive.

“Malik would really bring something to the table,” Izzo said. “His experience, his ability to guard the 1, 2, 3 and 4, even a 5. I mean, he's just our most versatile guy … He really can play the 2, 3 or 4, and it’s something that we've had to grind through with these six games in 16 days. We went 3-3 through it and we’re not satisfied but definitely not disappointed either.

“I do think that there's light at the end of the tunnel.”

McDonald's selections

Michigan State is bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in the country next year, and on Tuesday, that class just became a bit more impressive.

Forward Xavier Booker from Indianapolis Cathedral and guard Jeremy Fears from Joliet (Ill.) West each was named to the McDonald’s All-America team, the first Spartans to earn the honor since Max Christie in 2021 and the first time Michigan State has landed two players in the game since Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford in 2016.

Booker is on the East team and Fears is a member of the West team. The game will be played March 28 in Houston during the week leading up to the Final Four.

The 6-foot-10 Booker is ranked the No. 8 overall player in the class, according to the composite rankings at 247sports. Fears, a 6-1 guard, checks in at No. 24. Both are five-stars for a Michigan State class that is ranked No. 3 behind Kentucky and Duke.

The other two members of Michigan State’s class — forward Coen Carr (No. 52) and forward Gehrig Normand (No. 102) — were also nominated for the All-America game.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau