Respert Headlines Michigan State's 2012 Hall Of Fame Class

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/NBAE/Getty Images

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

Email / Twitter

If you spend enough time around Wolves player development coach Shawn Respert you’ll inevitably hear it. It might be subtle like a short but sweet reference on a golf course, or it might be blatantly obvious—like a playful but direct jab at Wayne Ellington’s alma mater and collegiate basketball powerhouse North Carolina.

Respert is Michigan State to the core, and those green and white undertones never stray far from his conversations. The former Spartans standout spent five years in East Lansing from 1990-95, leaving a legacy in the pre-Tim Izzo era that still resonates today. He finished with 2,531 points during that span, second in Big Ten history, and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year after his senior season.

So when Respert was informed he will be part of the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame, being inducted a week from today on Sept. 20 along with Carl Banks (football), Emily Bastel (women’s golf), Clinton Jones (football, track), Diane Spoelstra (volleyball, women’s basketball, softball) and George Szypula (men’s gymnastics coach), the range of emotions he felt were difficult to describe.

“I’m still taken back,” Respert said. “Certainly it was a great era for me.”

It’s an era, and a campus, that is still close to Respert’s heart.

Michigan State basketball is on the short list of elite collegiate programs with continued success. Dating back as far as Magic Johnson all the way through Izzo's empire over the past 17 years, the Spartans continuously make trips deep into the NCAA tournament and produce celebrated individual standouts.

That deep tradition humbles Respert, at times making him question what separated him from other Spartans greats who haven’t been invited to join the Hall of Fame.

Statistics suggest Respert belongs. Playing for coach Jud Heathcote, he averaged 21.3 points per game during his Spartans career—highlighted by his 25.6 scoring average as a senior—and was a 48.4 career collegiate shooter. He hit 45.5 percent from 3-point range during that stretch, and his efforts at Michigan State helped him get selected eighth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.

He is still the Spartans’ all-time leading scorer.

Still, as the Wolves' player development coach Respert preaches team-first concepts, something he valued back in his days with the Spartans. During Respert’s five years with the program, the Spartans went 98-47 and made four NCAA tournament appearances. He said the most important part of playing for that program was doing everything he could to help the team win.

“I don’t feel like I should receive this because of my individual statistics; it’s a team sport,” Respert said. “I’ve always wanted to respect my teammates and my coaches, give them the highest respect and be thankful. Be appreciative of them. Whenever we cross paths and never forget it—maybe we don’t see each other on a day to day basis, but I wanted to make sure those people know the gratitude toward them.”

He played in an era with noteworthy athletes across the Big Ten. There was Purdue’s Glenn Robinson, Illinois’ Kendall Gill, Wisconsin’s Michael Finley and Minnesota’s Voshon Lenard. Inside the state, there was Michigan’s Fab Five headlined by Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard.

Even today, he can rally off a scouting report for each of his Big Ten foes from 16 years ago.

That’s what Michigan State basketball meant to Respert in his day, and it’s what it still means to him now. He’ll be there next week for the induction ceremony, sharing the moment with his family and his college and AAU coaches.

It’s an accomplishment he credits to all the people who helped him growing up.

“By no means was it just because of me,” Respert said. “I was lucky to have all the right parts at the right time. I had a great coach, I had great teammates. I had a great support staff at school. I was coming from a good family source. There were no distractions, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

By the time the Wolves open up training camp this fall, Respert will forever be linked to his alma mater through their Athletics Hall of Fame. He didn’t set out to make it there, but in the end it’s his hard work that landed him a permanent spot in East Lansing.

“I never said I played to be in the Hall of Fame or wanted to be a scoring leader,” Respert said. “I just played because I wanted to be good. That’s all I set my eyes on. I wanted people to say, ‘Man, that guy was really good.’ And I wanted people to talk about my team the way they talk about the other successful programs. ‘That team, they’re good because of him.’ That was the ultimate thing.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.