Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Heading into the championship game for the Big Ten Tournament title yesterday, if I had said to you that Spartan Colby Wollenman would have to have a major game on the court for MSU to win how many of you would have felt comfortable about the win? That is not disrespect to Wollenman who may be one of the most popular players on the team and mutually loved by coaches and teammates alike.
Yesterday MSU would not have won had they NOT had Wollenman. The stat line would tell you that he had five rebounds, four points and one assist. Nice stats, but not earth shattering, but stats on a sheet of paper do not tell the entire story. In his 12 minutes of play his defense was amazing, and his intensity was through the roof.
The pride of Cody, Wyoming is more like a 1950’s aw shucks Howdy Doody all American kid, than a tough warrior, but don’t be fooled. Wollenman is as tough as anyone. He never backed down and I think is forearm will have to be surgically removed from more than one Boilermaker.
Izzo praises Wollenman nearly every press conference for sacrificing his minutes to help freshman star Deyonta Davis. Saying, “I tell DD (Davis) that he owes Colby money one day (NBA career) for what he has done to help him.”
For Wollenman, it has never been about him. With his eyes on medical school he doesn’t like talking about himself, but that’s fine. His teammates love to talk about him.
The best player in the nation, Denzel Valentine jumped at my chance to brag on Wollenman last night after his heroic display of toughness saying, “Colby is a big?time player. He’s never scared. It doesn’t matter how big they are, how athletic they are, he’s never scared. That’s something I always like about Colby. In practice, he’s on the scout team. Going up against A.P. (Adreian Payne), B.J. (Branden Dawson) I mean, he has nothing to be scared about. He’s going up against the best athletes every day in practice. So Colby is a big?time player.”
Star shooter Bryn Forbes flashed a brilliant smile the moment I mentioned his lanky Wyoming teammate. “I really think Colby is overlooked sometimes. He’s so cerebral. He’s helping everyone on the court from guards to bigs. It’s just crazy. He’s like another coach in a way. Even games he doesn’t play, he plays such a big impact that it’s like ?? it’s just good to have him around.”
Finally Matt Costello who competes with him with in practice was quick to jump in the conversation adding, “Honestly, he’s always ready to play. He knows he may not get his chance sometimes if D.D. is playing well. But he came in today and really muscled A.J. and Isaac when he was facing them in the post and that saved us a lot of times. He got five boards today. He was all over the place. He got a put?back dunk. He never said that. But I’m happy for him.”
Wollenman won’t see him jersey hang from the rafters of Breslin Center, but his foot print and impact on this team will be felt for years. Loved by the fans, adored by the coaches and respected by his teammates Wollenman proves that good guys can finish first. He’s probably still wearing the net around his neck that he cut down after the Tournament title proving it.
The Spartans play their first NCAA game on Friday from St. Louis, Missouri against Middle Tennessee. That game tips off at 2:40 PM and you can see it on CBS.