The Michigan State Spartans started the season not ranked, yet they climbed their way all the way to a No. 1 seed. While there is no doubt that it takes a team effort to reach such heights, this team was also led by a special player.
Draymond Green is that special player. While he may not be the biggest or the flashiest or even the fastest, he is the best leader in college hoops and perhaps the hardest working. His overall stats are second to none.
He averages 16.1 points per game. Now, before you think he is all about his own shot, you have to look at the 3.8 assist he has per game. He is a beast on the boards with 10.2 rebounds per game — don’t forget, he is a 6'7" forward and not some 6'11" center. He adds 40 percent accuracy from three point range and, just for good measure, he grabs 1.5 steals a game and .9 blocks. The man does it all.
In fact, his season is going down as one of the best in years. He is the first player since the 1996-97 season from a power six conference to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game. The last player to accomplish that feat was Tim Duncan. To add to his resume, he recently joined Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to have two career triple doubles in the NCAA Tournament.
While his stats are impressive, they only tell part of the story. Green has a special leadership quality that, as Tom Izzo has said, is an once in a generation type. He is the leader on the floor, in the locker room and in the community.
He is the first one in and last one out of the locker room. This allows him to bond with each player. He has taken the younger players under his wing, mentoring them and guiding them as they start their college careers on and off the court. He also takes time to speak with recruits — players he will never share the court with. This not only shows future players how important the school is to him, but it also shows his current teammates how deep his commitment is to this team and university.
Beyond what he does off the court, it is his play on the court that has this team dreaming big. He is more than just simple stats. It is his consistency that really drives this team. Only four times this season has he scored less than 10 points in a game. Of those four games, he left one with an injury, played only 16 minutes in another and — due to a blowout win — rested much of the third. That amount of consistency really helps the team as they hit those inevitable rough patches that happen during a season or in a game.
Even on the rare occasions that he does not score, he does not let it affect the rest of his game. He still managed double digits rebounds in three of his four lowest scoring games. Having a player that does not allow a down night in one area of his game affect the rest of his game with a huge, calming presence to a team.
Perhaps, the teams most disappointing loss came in his final home game at Breslin when Ohio State made a last second shot to not only win the game but also forced a three way tie for the Big Ten regular season championship. Green took it upon himself to right this wrong in the Big Ten Tournament. He averaged 15.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.3 assist, one steal and two blocks during the tourney. This not only helped the Spartans to win their first conference tournament since 2000, but it also earned him Tourney MVP honors.
He was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year. Now, the nation has started to recognize how special of a player Green is. He has been named a finalist for Naismith College Player of the Year, joining Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Kansas’s Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. While each of these players has had great seasons, none of them stack up to Green. He brings it all and does it all.
As Michigan State continues its run in the NCAA Tournament they know that Draymond Green will be there to lead the way. While other teams hope that their player will not shrink under the pressure or will fail to show up for the big game, the Spartans can be confident that Green will rise to the occasion.
At this point, every game has the potential to be Green’s last in Spartan Green; he will do everything in his power to make sure that last game does not happen until a Monday in New Orleans as he celebrates a championship with his team.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings whom writes about a multitude of sports. You can follow him on Twitter.
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