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Michigan State Spartans Senior Draymond Green One of the Program’s Premier Leaders
Draymond Green will likely go down as one of the Michigan State Spartans' most memorable leaders.
Now a senior, Green has been vocal since his freshman year, and is considered the glue that binds the Spartans. He's been praised by Spartans coach Tom Izzo over the years, and Wednesday, "Day-Day" reached a milestone which adds to an already sparkling resume.
With 16 points in the Spartans' 65-49 Big Ten-ACC Challenge win Wednesday over the Florida State Seminoles, Green became the 42nd player in Spartans history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. Considering the amount of talent that has made its way through East Lansing, it's a benchmark in which Green will be remembered by for years to come.
He certainly deserves the recognition.
I've often thought of the Spartans' best floor generals, and typically, guards like Mateen Cleaves, who is of 2000 national title fame, and Drew Neitzel were players I considered to be some of the best—at least during the Tom Izzo era.
Of course, players like Steve Smith and Eric Snow were great in their days as Spartans, roughly 20 years ago, but I was quite young and didn't have a firm grasp on how important a leader was to a team. While in elementary school, I just knew guys like Smith and Snow were great, along with past legends like Scott Skiles and Magic Johnson.
I grew up in the Flint area, so, obviously, Cleaves was a player that I was familiar with. I've interviewed him a couple times, even seen him around Flint at Mott Community College basketball games. He's a local legend, and an icon in Spartans basketball history.
I still remember his spirited performance, hobbling on his ankle and all, in Michigan State's 2000 title win over the Florida Gators. I was a senior in high school at the time, and it was great to see a player from my community—along with Charlie Bell and Morris Peterson—lead the Spartans to glory.
However, those teams were arguably loaded with more talent than what Green has had during his time. Granted, Michigan State has had great players like Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen to aide Green, but despite those players, I've always viewed Green differently. He was at a higher level than the aforementioned, even if his stats didn't suggest that.
Green just struck me as a born leader, not a player who was coached up to be one.
Since the 2009 national title game against North Carolina—a game in which Green was just a freshman—I always thought that Green would end up a special player at Michigan State. A lot of that had to do with his demeanor. He never came across an inexperienced player, rather, quite the opposite.
I was pleased to see a young player rally seniors during that title loss. I was even more pleased to see Green earn sixth-man and All-Big Ten honors during his time with the Spartans, which comes to an end at the this season.
Despite a Final Four loss in 2010 to Butler and a championship loss the year prior to North Carolina, Green has always struck me as a championship-caliber player. I'm not easily inspired by college athletes—or any athlete for that matter—but watching Green beckons me to root for the guy. It's not because I follow Spartans basketball, although, I'm sure that has something to do with it. My appreciation for Green stems from what kind of player he's developed into and what kind of player I feel he'll be viewed as in the future. He had a star-studded prep career at Saginaw High, coming up much in the same way the "Flintstones" did—from a tough environment, to a national stage in East Lansing.
Those tough players from city schools have vaulted the Spartans to where they're at today, and Green, in my mind, should be considered as a player whom carried on the tradition.
Izzo has praised Green in the past, calling him a coach on the floor, great team leader, and paid him the highest of compliments a coach could give a player: Green will be remembered, easily, as one of the greatest Spartans. No question.
The list of historically elite Spartans players could be debated. I'm sure everyone has their opinion on who is worthy, who is not.
This year will be special for "Day-Day." He has a young team, one that desperately needs him to set the tone—but not offensively. Although Green is the team's leading scorer, there are other players capable of making baskets. No, he is needed for his senior leadership, something the Spartans lacked in 2010-11, despite having Lucas and Summers as "leaders."
It'll be interesting to watch how far the Spartans go this season. After an early bow in the tournament last spring, I approached this year with cautious optimism. I didn't want to go too far, one way or the other, when predicting how the Spartans would fare.
But with Green, I'm comfortable, more so than last year. There won't be any doubts of his senior leadership, not one column about Green not doing his job. He's essentially the Spartans' elder statesman, and he's conducted himself as such the past three years.
If you're a fan of college basketball, the Spartans, or just like his nickname of "Day-Day," I urge you to play close attention to Green this winter, and hopefully, for him, in March. He's a player that coaches dream of, fans flock toward, and teams miss once gone.
Adam Biggers has followed NCAA basketball for over 20 years, particularly the Michigan State Spartans. He can be reached by e-mail at Adam.Biggers @Yahoo.com, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81. Adam hosts "Game-Related" 11-noon Fridays on www.flinttalkradio.com.
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