April 3, 2009
Spartans in awe of fan support at Ford Field
DETROIT - With nearly all of the lower bowl at Ford Field filled except for the two end zone sections, the turnout of Michigan State fans to watch their Spartans' in the open practice session was nothing short of amazing.
An estimated 25,000 Michigan State fans turned out for the practice session. That number rivaled the turnout for Michigan State's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against North Carolina. Fan presence at Ford Field on Friday was a stark contrast to the fans that saw the leg-weary Spartans fall by 35 points to a fresh and hungry North Carolina ballclub.
"It feels like the whole atmosphere is different," said sophomore wing Chris Allen. "Just now there were probably more people there were probably more people than were at the game in December. Just imagine how many people will be there tomorrow."
CBS play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz took the microphone following the Spartan basketball practice and announced to the crowd that their overwhelming numbers sent a chill down his spine.
Nantz was not the only one impressed with Michigan State fan representation during the practice session. Spartan coach Tom Izzo echoed the sentiments of the longtime CBS broadcaster and then he thanked the throng of Spartan fans for coming out to support their team.
Spartan players spread out to every corner of the court and acknowledged their fans with a prolonged waves before jogging off the court to a loud cheer from the green and white mass at Ford Field. There were so many Michigan State fans in the stands when Villanova took the court for their practice session that they were greeted with a spontaneous albeit good natured booing from the fans in the stands.
"It was amazing," said freshman Delvon Roe. "I didn't think there would be that many people there. It shows the pride that this community has for us, this state, has for this basketball team and how much we have done for them and making this day a little bit more fulfilling for them. Having this opportunity to go out there and see all of those people cheering for us on makes us really appreciate what we we're able to do."
Third-year captain Travis Walton said that it was Izzo's idea to delay their exit from the court and to thank Spartan fans which numbered around 25,000 at the practice session.
"He wanted to make sure that they have done for us and all they are going to do for us," added Walton.
As fifth-year senior Idong Ibok was taken back by the crowd support.
"My hat is off to our fans and to the city of Detroit," Ibok said. "It was such a great turnout."
The Final Four experience has been a rich one thus far for Walton.
"I never allowed myself to think about it until now," Walton explained. "It's amazing. This is the first time I've had to play in the Final Four and I'm so glad we were patient and worked hard to get here. You can't tell someone what this is like. I just want to take it all in."
SPARTAN PLAYERS FOCUSED, LOOSE, AND FRESH
After two tough practices on Monday and Tuesday, Izzo and has staff have lightened the workload as their game with UCONN approaches.
"We've had light practices getting ready," explained Roe. "We've also been enjoying the weekend while still being focused and getting ready to play."
Roe who appears to have run into the proverbial freshmen wall, says he is ready for a final flourish in Detroit.
"I can't feel any better," he said. "It's the last weekend of my freshman year. And everything I've been through, to have this opportunity to play in the Final Four, who could ask for anything more than that."
Spartan players are also confident and are beginning to feel like a team of destiny.
"You could say that it is a Cinderella story because almost every part of the season we were missing a key guy," explained Allen. "Now, when it is really time for us to win games, Raymar got healthy, Goran got healthy, Delvon is almost 100 percent. It's perfect timing, like destiny."
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