Michigan State Basketball: The Best Spartans at Every Position in Last Decade
Time flies, and Tom Izzo has coached handfuls of great players during the past 10 years at Michigan State.
From the Kalin Lucas crowd, to the Goran Suton supporters, Spartans fans latch onto their favorites and talk about them for years as if they're still part of the team. Well, they kind of are—that's how Izzo does it in East Lansing.
Once a part of the family, always a part of the family.
With that being said, this slideshow will cover the best to do it in green and white since the 2003-04 season. Of course, lists such as these create discussion, so don't be afraid to voice your opinion in the comments section.
Quick note before we start: The selected players will be based on leadership, production/statistics, tenure and team success. For example, a four-year player with a Final Four has a great shot of being named the best (one will be, count on that).
And maybe, just maybe, popularity among the fanbase factors into the equation.
Point Guard: Take a Wild Guess
It was "Too Easy"
A strong argument for Drew Neitzel could be made for best point guard of the past decade. However, it's difficult to go against Kalin Lucas, who dominated college basketball for three straight years while helping to lead the Spartans to the 2009 national title bout and 2010 Final Four.
As a sophomore in 2008, Lucas etched his name in the Big Ten record books as the league's Player of the Year; and although his senior year of 2010-11 ended on a so-so note, he finished as the Big Ten's No. 5 career scorer (1,996 points), per Sports-Reference.com.
In 2009, he hit a floater in the lane that toppled Kansas in the Sweet 16. In January of 2010, his last-second 18-foot jumper dumped Michigan, 57-56, at the Crisler Center.
Both of those shots are among the best of recent memory, and Lucas was Mr. Clutch more times than not.
This type of stuff happened every day...
Kalin Lucas carries Michigan State in must-win game: The Michigan State senior scored 25 points, including 11 st... http://bit.ly/fCXT42— DetroitNewsMSU (@detnewsMSU) February 20, 2011
From his sophomore year forward, Lucas never fell out of the Big Ten's top-five assist men. He was twice the No. 4 man and once finished as No. 2. Those are nice resume bullets for point guards, aren't they?
During his final three seasons, he never averaged less than 14.7 points per game. He averaged 17 as a senior, despite injury and criticism. He also left Michigan State with a .377 mark from long range. He was also consistently among the top five foul-drawers—his freshman year was the only year in which he was outside the top five in free-throw attempts. He closed his career with 507 makes, No. 2 in league history.
But he's also No. 5 in turnovers. Of course, that's not a shining example for a guy who's supposed to guard the ball. But considering his impressive numbers in other areas, the turnover statistic can be dealt to the side for now.
Shooting Guard: Give Me Some Moe
Gary Harris had a great two-year run, but he never made it to the Final Four.
Moe Ager did, and Moe Ager also dunked on too many people to recall. He also shot over them like they were invisible. And for that reason, he gets the starting nod as the 2-guard on what's basically evolving into an all-decade starting five.
In 2004-05, Ager's 14.1 points and 40 percent three-point shooting pushed the Spartans to the Final Four. The next season, his 19.3 points per game led the Big Ten. But the Spartans infamously fell to George Mason in the first round.
As part of one of Izzo's most athletic and talented rosters that year, Ager, a four-year grad, provided a spark on offense to remember. He was the total package and most certainly deserving of the title of top 2-guard of the past decade.
Did You Know?
Ager was selected by the Dallas Mavericks as the No. 28 overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Initially, Ager, a Detroit native, wanted to go to Missouri, not Michigan State. During an interview with me in March, the Spartans great talked about his decision to sign with Izzo.
"But something kept telling me Michigan State—my mom wanted me to go there. But my plan was Missouri—two years and out. I was young and ignorant. Eventually, I smartened up and looked at the overall picture. [MSU] is a great program for athletics and schooling. I’m further in life because of it.
"If you eliminate basketball, the life lessons that I learned are irreplaceable."
After his days in the NBA, Ager decided to pursue music, his true passion. He applied some of what he learned at Michigan State to produce 2013 Grammy-nominated tracks.
Powerful Small Forward: Day-Day, All Day
Today, he's carving a niche with the Golden State Warriors. But before Draymond Green earned up-and-comer status in the Association, he was a go-to during March Madness for Tom Izzo, who gushed about Day-Day every chance he had.
Hell, he flew out to the Bay Area to see his former Final Four star take the floor during the NBA Playoffs--Izzo loves Green, and so do fans and Spartans legends.
As a vocal freshman in 2009, Green, who was the B1G and NABC POTY as a senior, began to turn heads. The next year, he developed into what became "The Dancing Bear" persona. At 6'7" and few burgers over 230 pounds, Green epitomized the quintessential Izzo player. He was tough and humble, not to mention an incredible leader.
In 2011-12, he averaged 16.2 points and 10.6 boards per game, one of the steadiest stat lines that you'll ever see. Also, take a look at his efficiency ratings. He put together some of the most organized seasons in Big Ten history (well, since PER became stylish).
Do you Remember?
Green, a former Saginaw High superstar, was bound for Kentucky. And then Tubby Smith got canned, which, in hindsight, was a historical moment for Spartans basketball.
Center: None Other Than Paul
At 6'11" and 270 pounds, Paul Davis was one of the biggest forces in the Big Ten during his four-year career at Michigan State. And when it comes to mentioning all-time bigs, Davis must be in the discussion.
While patrolling the paint, Davis gave the Spartans more than consistency; he was basically the backbone of the frontcourt, and Izzo hasn't had another center quite like him since. He finished his tenure in East Lansing as the Big Ten's No. 18 scorer (1,718 points) and finished as a top-six scorer twice. With 910 boards, he's the conference's No. 4 all-time rebounder.
Needless to say, the former All-American is the program's best on the glass as well. But he could also shoot the short jumper and pass—he had exceptional passing abilities for a center, a position not known for guys who thread the needle very often.
Power Forward: Adreian Payne
Coming out of high school, Adreian Payne was classified as a center. But as his career progressed at Michigan State, the 6'10", 270-pounder evolved into a fantastic 4 (cue the rimshot).
Beloved for his connection to the Spartans fans, community and one Princess Lacey, Payne finished his four-year journey as a pillar of the program. Four years ago, he was a young kid looking to educate himself through basketball. Today, he's staring down a pro career, degree in hand.
Payne's career averages are a bit misleading. A line of eight points and 4.8 boards doesn't scream all-time worthy. He was a late-bloomer, making leaps and bounds in personal and athletic development as a junior and senior. Therefore, those final two years paint a more accurate picture of Superman.
In 2013-14, Payne was one of the NCAA's elite bigs. During his final pair of seasons, he finished among the top seven conference rebounders. But it was the development of his jumper that really set him apart from others his size, and everyone else for that matter. There are few near-seven-footers who can let it go from the perimeter like Payne, who turned in as the Big Ten's No. 3-ranked player in effective field-goal this past season (.565).
All statistics provided by Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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