SAN DIEGO — Before he even found time to check his phone after Friday night's 67-55 loss to top-ranked North Carolina, Michigan State forward Draymond Green said he was almost certain he'd have a text message from ex-teammate Delvon Roe.
Green ditched his former No. 23 in favor of Roe's No. 10, a tribute to a fellow senior whose chronic knee ailments forced him to forgo his final season of college eligibility and retire from basketball on Sept. 29 at age 22. Michigan State had not announced the gesture prior to tipoff Friday, so Green's number change was a surprise to everyone including Roe.
"I really wanted to do that because that's one guys I went through the wars with every single year from the day I stepped on campus," Green said. "Delvon came two days later, and we've been going through it ever since. I definitely want to pay homage to him and do something in his honor."
The idea to don Roe's number struck Green the day of Roe's retirement, so he called Michigan State equipment manager Dave Pruder to ask if it was too late for Nike to supply him with No. 10 jerseys. When the two of them approached Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach said he was "all for it" as well.
The number change certainly didn't diminish Green's production. Green spearheaded Michigan State's 49-34 domination of North Carolina on the glass, collecting a game-high 18 rebounds to go with 13 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
Although Green was disappointed the Spartans weren't able to knock down open shots or stay out of foul trouble, he was proud to have been part of the first game on an aircraft carrier and pleased with his youthful team's effort.
"We got back to the old Michigan State ways — crashing the boards and defending," Green said. "Tonight they were the better team, and they probably are the better team right now. But I think we can grow. If we meet them again, we'll be better and we are going to get better. So we'll be fine."