Since opening tip out in Hawaii against Arizona, the biggest problem for the Michigan State Spartans all season long was going to be depth in the front court. It took a huge blow when senior Gavin Schilling and graduate transfer Ben Carter both suffered knee injuries in October workouts.
It certainly was not looking good for either to hit the floor in 2016-17, though some held out hope that they'd make some sort of impact late in the season. However, news came down earlier this week that one is officially done for the year and the other has a very slim chance of playing.
Michigan State's Ben Carter "100 percent done" for this season, MSU will pursue options for sixth year https://t.co/Ggev5aTIrM
— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 9, 2017
Gavin Schilling's chances of returning are 'looking slimmer,' final decision coming next week https://t.co/ebNjLRIiYx
— MLive (@MLive) January 9, 2017
The 6-foot-9 Carter transferred over as a graduate from UNLV. Ironically enough, his 2015-16 season was cut short following what else but a knee injury last January. In 22 games with the Runnin' Rebels, Carter averaged 8.6 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per while playing 24.0 minutes per contest. It was a significant spike from the two years he played at Oregon from 2012-14, where he averaged just 2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG and under 12.0 MPG in 62 career games with the Ducks.
Spartans head coach Tom Izzo has expressed his deepest sorrow for Carter and the injury problems but cannot speak highly enough of his presence around the team and the campus.
“It's almost criminal how it's worked out for him because he has been such a good teammate, such a good guy,” Izzo said. “Around the building, we love him. Hopefully, things will work out for him one way or another. Because I think he's a guy who could definitely go to Europe.”
Now both Carter and the Spartans said they will seek a sixth year of eligibility for him, but there are a number of hurdles to overcome. Among those being that the player was unable to play for multiple seasons due to reasons out of his or her control. This season will be the second full academic season that Carter will be sitting on the bench in street clothes. However, the first was the 2014-15 season when he transferred to UNLV from Oregon. And the medial redshirt opportunity from a season-ending injury last year is out of the question, so it'll be quite a challenge getting Carter a sixth year granted, a process that cannot start until after the season ends.
“Unfortunately, the way that process goes, it will be by the end of the year before they let me know that,” Izzo said of the NCAA process.
As for the 6-foot-9 German-born Schilling, Izzo and the team are still holding out the slimmest of hopes for him to return but word is that he has not even began running or training with the team yet, but rather just strengthening the leg. Izzo also said that while it's not looking good for Schilling, they will have “a more definitive answer” some time next week.
“It's going to come down to, now, is it fair for Gavin?” Izzo said. “Forget the program. Is it fair for Gavin?”
Schilling last season in 24 games averaged 12.5 minutes per and posted per game totals of 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds. He's played in 100 career games for the Spartans over the past three seasons, averaging 12.0 minutes, 3.4 points, 2.8 rebounds. And unlike Carter, getting an extra year of eligibility for the senior Schilling is a lot less complicated. A lost season could mean receiving a medical redshirt and playing as a graduate next season.
It's important to note that MSU has two incoming freshmen power forwards for next season, in 5-star Jaren Jackson (La Porte, IN) and 4-star Grand Rapids Christian product Xavier Tillman. But even with them already signed on to play next season, the Spartans would have three scholarships spots on the roster that either Carter and/or Schilling could occupy if need be.
**Stats courtesy of player's page on Sports-Reference