Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine has not played since the Spartans' win at Northeastern on Dec. 19, but coach Tom Izzo is hoping the the MSU star can return by Sunday after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 21.
(Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)
EAST LANSING -- Denzel Valentine has said he hopes to be ready to play by Sunday's game with Penn State, but coach Tom Izzo says he's not sure about that just yet.
"I guess he updated that he's playing this weekend; I sure didn't see that," Izzo said Monday of Valentine. "He shot around at Iowa, shot a little bit at Minnesota, has not stepped foot in a practice. He's ran on the treadmill a limited amount, (and) has done some biking.
"But it's only been two weeks today, so I'm hoping this week we'll get him practicing somewhat. I doubt it will be today, but I don't know. I think he's going to do some treadmill work with less weight on him and see how that pans out."
The Spartans (14-1, 1-1 Big Ten) host Illinois (8-7, 0-2) at 9 p.m. on Thursday (TV: ESPN) before traveling to play at Penn State at noon on Sunday.
Valentine has been out since suffering a knee injury in Michigan State's Dec. 20 practice and undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage the next day.
Izzo said he was originally hoping Valentine could return in time for the game against the Illini, but because Valentine has yet to practice, Sunday could be more realistic even if it's not a given at this point.
"I was hoping he'd be back by Illinois, which means I thought he'd be back by Penn State, and after today I'll have a better idea," Izzo said. "If he doesn't practice at all today and tomorrow, I'm not playing him in a game.
"Then I'd hope for Sunday just because the longer he's out, the longer the time to get back is. But there will be no second-guessing our decision on this."
Izzo said he'll err on the side of caution, referencing a time he had former MSU star Mateen Cleaves sit out an extra game during the program's national championship season (1999-2000) after he had been cleared by doctors.
"It will be made by the doctors and (Valentine)," Izzo said, "and then I'll make the final decision on what I feel as far as that goes."
Michigan State was 12-0 at the time of Valentine's injury and has since beaten Oakland (99-93 in overtime), lost at Iowa (83-70) and topped Minnesota (69-61).
Izzo said forward Marvin Clark is expected to play against Illinois after missing the win over the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Saturday on account of a swollen hand.
Clark suffered the setback when he fell during the loss in Iowa City a week ago.