Michigan State's Green shows worth by doing it all late

by | CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- He doesn't have the sculpted physique of Thomas Robinson or the endless length of Anthony Davis, but Draymond Green possesses everything else.

He shoots it from the perimeter, he drives the ball to the basket and can post up his defender when necessary. Green has the passing skills of a point guard, an off-the-charts basketball IQ, a nose and determination to track down every rebound -- and also unmistakable leadership qualities.

With 40 seconds left in Michigan State's 65-61 win over Saint Louis, Green even grabbed the broom and mopped the floor.

"I've never, ever had anyone who does as much," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.

"Day Day" is a throwback.

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But it wasn't always like this. Green was a "chubby" kid not all that long ago who was crying on the phone to his mother, Mary Babers-Green, while sitting on the back of the bus en route back from a win at Ohio State. That was his freshman year after Green didn't step onto the court against the Buckeyes.

"He cried and told me he wanted to leave," Babers-Green said.

His mother told him to stick it out. Then he tried his high school coach, Lou Dawkins, who fed him a similar refrain. Then it was onto an assistant at Saginaw High.

"I ran out of options," Green said.

When Green stepped onto campus in East Lansing, he didn't look the part. An ankle injury, along with an affection for inhaling as much food as humanly possible, had Green tipping the scales at a robust 278 pounds at one point early in his college career. Green would often devour a turkey dinner cooked by his mother and then head right to his grandparents and polish off another full dinner of soul food.

"My grandmother loved to watch me eat," Green said. "And I love to do it."

Babers-Green added, "He was eating everything. And he blew up like a Thanksgiving turkey."

Now his grandmother gets upset because Green barely eats anything these days. The 6-foot-7 (and that's being generous) do-it-all forward has slimmed down, now weighing in at a lean 235 pounds. His feasts come on the court.

It's all about winning for Green.

The numbers are certainly impressive. The 20 double-doubles this season, the 16.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, the 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and nearly four assists per contest. Green finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists on the heels of a triple-double in the Spartans tourney-opening win over Long Island.

But the numbers are misleading. They don't begin to tell the story of Green's impact on the court.

Saint Louis had closed the gap to 49-46 with a little more than five minutes to go Sunday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. Green delivered a perfect low-post entry pass to big man Derrick Nix for a bucket. The Billikens cut the deficit to 51-49 moments later, but Green answered again -- with a pinpoint pass to Keith Appling for a short jumper. After Rick Majerus' team responded with a basket, Green came down and knocked down a pretty 18-foot jumper. He then followed with terrific defense on Cory Remekun, came down the other end, drove to the basket and threw a ridiculous two-handed pass to the right corner -- where Appling sank the shot of the game with 1:34 left, a trifecta that made the score 58-51.

Most guys wouldn't have trusted Appling in that spot, especially ones with their college career on the line. But Green passed the ball to Appling, who hasn't shot the ball well all year long and was being guarded as if he were Rajon Rondo by Majerus -- meaning that defenders were sagging to the free-throw line just daring Appling to take perimeter shots.

Before choosing Michigan State, it appeared Green would be displaying his array of skills in Kentucky Blue instead of Spartan Green. He gave Tubby Smith and the Wildcats a verbal pledge after it was clear Green wasn't in Izzo's plans when the Spartans landed highly touted power forward Delvon Roe. However, Smith left UK for Minnesota, Green opened up his recruitment and Izzo and his staff decided that, after watching more of Green, he was was worth taking as another power forward.

"His dream was always to play at Michigan State," Babers-Green said.

"It's because Michigan State wins," her son added.

A year ago, Sparty was loaded. Izzo had Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Roe, Green and Korie Lucious. But the season was a train wreck, largely because the senior leadership of Lucas and Summers was non-existent.

"Everyone knows this is Draymond's team now," assistant coach Dwayne Stephens said. "Last year I don't think he wanted to step on anyone's toes."

Now Izzo puts him right there with Mateen Cleaves as the most elite leader he's ever coached. Scouts question Green's NBA potential because he's not an above-the-rim player who was blessed with incredible athleticism. But no one does more for their team than Day Day.

"Straight baller," is how his buddy Roe, who retired prior to the season, described Green.

After losing three starters and a fourth in Appling who made the conversion to the point guard spot this season, Michigan State was written off -- a rare Izzo-coached team omitted in the preseason polls.

"I don't think people realized how good he was," Izzo said. "And how much he can do."

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