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Chris Solari | Detroit Free Press | November 22, 2017

How Michigan State football, basketball will celebrate Thanksgiving

  Michigan State's men's basketball team will participate in the Phil Knight Invitational PK80 tournament during Thanksgiving week.

EAST LANSING โ€“ There are no requirements for Mark Dantonio's perfect Thanksgiving meal.

"Just have it ready when I get there," Michigan State's football coach said with a big grin Tuesday.

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He'll be at home with his wife and daughters for the turkey, the stuffing, "all that stuff" before the Spartans leave Friday for Saturday's Big Ten finale at Rutgers.

Tom Izzo and MSU's basketball team, though, already will be out of town. Far away from home and, for some, away from their families. They left Tuesday for Portland, Ore., and will open the Phil Knight Invitational PK80 tournament Thanksgiving night against DePaul (11:30 p.m. ET/ESPN).

That's the nature of college sports this time of year. Two teams, practically a continent away from each other, spending their holiday pursuing goals.

"I think we got a decent amount of parents that are going out there, but it is hard," Izzo said Monday. "You don't want to be cold about it, but here we play on Thanksgiving night and then we play the next day. ... In general, we'll be thankful for what we have. We'll make sure that we speak about and appreciate the moment.

"But we also got a job to do. And that's the beauty of sports."

For the football team, Dantonio said the Spartans will practice early Thanksgiving morning in East Lansing and be done by noon. Then, the plan is to keep the players within an hour of campus to enjoy a meal. Some will go to their own homes, some will travel with their teammates and others will spend Thursday afternoon and evening with their coaches' families.

"I think we have almost every player taken care of in that respect," Dantonio said. "No player will sit at their home. Some will go to coaches' homes. We're just going to take care of them."

Dantonio's program over the years has typically ended its regular season against Penn State, either at Spartan Stadium or in State College, Pa. This year, they will spend the weekend and face Rutgers (4 p.m. Saturday/Fox) in Piscataway, N.J.

The Spartans then will return home and meet Monday to iron out their postseason practice schedule. That can eat into a Christmas holiday, when Dantonio gives his players "four or five days" to spend with their families before reconvening wherever MSU ends up for its bowl game.

Christmas will be much easier for Izzo's program. The Spartans have eight days off between games that will allow them to spend a few days in late December at home before resuming the season. But Thanksgiving -- with high-profile tournaments, like the PK80, scattered around the country -- presents a different challenge.

Last year, Izzo and his team spent Thanksgiving in the Bahamas as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. It was a chance for then-junior Tum Tum Nairn to return to his native island and introduce his teammates to his family.

But for many of the Spartans, it was their first experience of missing out on the holiday experience with their own relatives.

"That was crazy, just because I'm a big, huge family guy," sophomore Cassius Winston said. "To be away from my family on a day like that was a little weird. But we had the team with us โ€“ those guys are considered my brothers. So it could've been a lot worse."

This article is written by Chris Solari from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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