Morris Peterson is one of the Spartans' greats. He was a key piece to Michigan State's 2000 NCAA title run.
Morris Peterson and Branden Dawson are two very different types of players.
But it's hard not to compare them at least, even if Peterson says that Dawson has "a little J-Rich (Jason Richardson) in him."
"When J-Rich got to school, they said he was one of the most athletic guys—he was one of the most athletic guys who came to Michigan State," Peterson said. "They said he couldn't shoot. Look what he did. He proved everybody wrong.
"J-Rich put in that work to get better. I’ve talked to (Dawson) and told him to keep working. I think (success) will come with hard work and the support system that he has."
MoPete is right. Dawson does have a taste of Richardson's skill set. And if he continues to live up to his 5-star billing, the sophomore will leave a legacy in East Lansing.
But Peterson and Dawson share a few common traits, too.
Peterson was known for his scoring ability while lighting up prep courts as Flint Northwestern's go-to option. However, the Spartans legend wasn't praised for his defense until later in his career.
His college career, that is.
Dawson has shown signs of dominance. Will he fully recover and be that force for MSU this year?
The same could be said for Dawson, who has a ferocious get-to-the-rim mentality but lacks strength on defense from time to time.
While Dawson recovers from an ACL injury, Spartans followers anxiously await for what's to come. The rising star said the injury helped him refocus on basketball.
Dawson needed something to kick-start his stay at Michigan State.
So far, so good.
"He’s progressing, and I don’t think he’s afraid (to play hard or get re-injured)," Peterson said. "If you ask anybody coming off an injury—people I know and played against—first thing they say is don’t get on the floor if you think about whether or not you’re going to get hurt or the injury is going to come back.
"I’m pretty sure they’re (MSU trainers, staff and coach Tom Izzo) doing everything to get him back right. He looks good—his body and athletically."
Oddly enough, a bump in the road helped out Peterson, who suffered a broken right wrist in 1997 against Gonzaga while flushing down an alley-oop from Mateen Cleaves.
Peterson, a lefty, had to redefine his game after the setback. He learned to shoot differently. He paid closer attention to defense too—a strong suggestion from Coach Izzo, who challenged Peterson for five years.
While relaying an old college story, Peterson recalled Izzo's encouragement after a restful three-game break.
"I was so anxious to get out there and play," Peterson said. "Coach said, 'Morris, I'm going to let you get out there, but you probably won't be able to shoot the ball well...but you'll have to play defense.'
"He rode me. I think that's how I got better defensively."
Perhaps all Dawson needs is an old-fashioned piece of Izzo's advice—if he hasn't already received one, of course.
After all, a prop from Izzo helped improve Peterson's game. A part of Michigan State's 2000 national championship "Flintstone" team, Peterson was a first-round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft and spent 11 years in the league with Toronto, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
Dawson is on his way to walking a similar path as Peterson. It's a process, obviously, but with increased tenacity on defense and a renewed desire, Dawson could join the ranks of those immortalized in the rafters at the Breslin Center.
"I think Branden is an exceptional athlete," Peterson said. "I definitely think in the last 10 years, you have to throw his athleticism in with us and other guys who have been there.
“I lacked that (defensive) effort coming into college. I had the athletic ability, and I realized how valuable that was to the team. I got better and improved."
Quotes were obtained firsthand during a 40-minute phone interview Jan. 6, 2013 with Morris Peterson. There will be more from Peterson on Keith Appling and the Spartans this week.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81