Green aims to lead Michigan State to NCAA title
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)
Draymond Green has done what no one from any of the six power conferences has accomplished since Tim Duncan.
Michigan State's do-it-all forward is the first player to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists since Duncan during the 1996-97 season at Wake Forest.
Green, though, is more interested in joining Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves as leaders who directed the Spartans to national titles.
''Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with those guys is an honor,'' Green said. ''It's not about stats. It's about winning. That's what this program has been built around, trying to hang banners. If you can keep on doing that, you earn your spot at the big-dog table. It's one of my goals to try to get up there with those guys.''
Green will begin what he hopes is a six-win run to seal his legacy as one of the school's all-time greats Friday night when top-seeded Michigan State plays 16th-seeded Long Island University-Brooklyn in a West regional game.
The versatile forward - the Big Ten player of the year and conference tournament most valuable player - averages 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with a cerebral game that draws rave reviews.
''He's a tremendous player, who can do so many different things,'' Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. ''Going back to his freshman year, you've seen all the different things that he's added to his game.''
Green arrived on campus in 2008 - after leading Saginaw High School to back-to-back state titles - as a chubby and immature kid. He weighed 268 pounds with 22 percent body fat back then, averaging just three points and three rebounds as a reserve for a team that lost in Detroit to North Carolina in the NCAA final.
''I was always pretty versatile, but when I got here, my body wasn't in good enough shape to show that,'' he said.
Green has reshaped his body and game in each of his four years.
He averaged nearly 10 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore reserve on another Final Four team. He added a 3-point shot to his array of skills as a junior, making 37 after connecting on just two his first two years combined, and made 44 3-pointers this season.
Sometimes, he calls plays for his teammates from the baseline - without the ball - and often barks out instructions on defense.
''His brain is like a computer,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. ''We don't consider him our best defensive player. The physical part of what he does is decent to good. The mental part of what he does is off the charts.''
Green has led the Spartans on and off the court with his infectious personality this season, cultivating a feel-good chemistry that was missing last season: Chris Allen wasn't welcomed back to the team, Korie Lucious was kicked off it, and Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers seemed more concerned that their NBA stock was slipping than that the squad was struggling.
Mary Babers says she's thrilled at how much her son has matured at Michigan State, where he is on schedule to earn a communications degree this spring.
''When coach Izzo was recruiting him, I asked him, `Can you guarantee my son will become a good man?''' Babers recalled Monday night. ''Izzo has poured so much into Draymond that he couldn't help but become a good person.
''Draymond was always a leader because in our family, we preached you couldn't be a follower, but he had bratty and pouty moments that he had to grow out of over time.''
Green has helped the Spartans win 105 games in his career with three Big Ten titles, two trips to the Final Four and a conference tournament title.
His place in Michigan State lore is secure as good, and he has a chance to make it great.
''He can sit with Magic, Mateen, Shawn Respert and myself, but he's got a chance to pick his seat at the big-dog table and be remembered as one of the pillars of Michigan State basketball if he wins a national championship,'' said Steve Smith, who led the Spartans to the 1990 Big Ten title and then had his college career end infamously with a disputed shot by Kenny Anderson for Georgia Tech in an NCAA tournament regional semifinal. ''When you think of Draymond Green, you think of a winner with a great personality who has a chance to rank among the top three who have been a Spartan.''
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage