Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves, the only returning All-America from last season, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and will be our eight to 10 weeks, coach Tom Izzo announced Monday.
Cleaves was scheduled to have a bone graft and a pin inserted during surgery Monday evening, Izzo said.
Cleaves likely won't play until shortly before the Spartans begin the Big Ten season, Jan. 5 against Penn State. He likely will miss games against North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona in December. The Spartans play Kentucky on Dec. 23.
Cleaves, who led the Spartans to a 33-5 record and their first Final Four in 20 years last season, is expected to be on crutches for three to four weeks. No matter how quickly he returns, it will take him a while longer to get in game shape, Izzo said.
"I don't think anybody comes back after four, six, eight, 10 weeks without missing a beat," he said.
Doctors said Cleaves probably injured the foot about three weeks ago and it got progressively worse. He complained Sunday about it being sore and went to a doctor Monday, Izzo said.
The injury will give the Spartans a chance to see how good they are, Izzo said.
"Do we just have a program, or do we have a team. Ever since I've been in this game, people have told me that a program is bigger than one person, one player, one coach. We're about to find that out," he said. "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for us. I don't want anyone changing their expectations of us."
Izzo said he expects Mo Peterson and Charlie Bell to take up the leadership void, although he said Cleaves will still attend practices and games.
"There's no doubt he's our leader by actions, he's our leader by words. He's going to be a very talented assistant for eight or 10 weeks," Izzo said.
Cleaves met with the team Monday before the surgery, Peterson said.
"He just told us that other guys are going to have to step up. Freshmen will have to step up and not play like freshmen," Peterson said.
Dave Thomas, a junior who redshirted last season, will fill in for Cleaves at the point.
"I think this is a great test for myself," Thomas said. "I expect him (Cleaves) to be on me more than Coach Izzo. Mateen's a great leader and he's still going to be there for us."
Izzo said he won't let the Spartans use Cleaves' absence as an excuse for not playing well.
"Don't let anybody say that `Well, they would have won if Mateen was playing,' or `We would have won by more if Mateen had been there,"' he said. "It's going to be personally insulting to me."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed