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March 16, 2008

Green wins second state title at Saginaw

EAST LANSING - Draymond Green made a phone call to Michigan State Associate Head Coach Mark Montgomery on Friday night.

"What time is your game on Saturday?" Draymond asked.

"What?" Montgomery answered.

"What time is your game?"

"Hey," Montgomery said, half-jokingly angry but undoubtedly serious, "you don't worry about us. You have a state championship game to play. You need to be thinking about going and winning that state title!"

And that, Draymond Green did on Saturday. The future Spartan scored 21 points and had 19 rebounds in leading Saginaw High to a 90-71 victory over Detroit Pershing in the Michigan Class A state championship game.

"Now I have to call Coach Montgomery and tell him we did it," Green said.

Green was a huge factor, as usual, for the 27-1, nationally-ranked Trojans, who won their second straight state title.

When Saginaw's players were awarded championship medals at the post-game ceremony, Green stooped down and kissed the Spartan Block S at midcourt.

"Man, I'm going to be here for four more years," said Green, who signed with MSU in November. "That's my court. It's home. Just like the seniors do on senior night, that was my last game wearing the Trojan uniform.

"I feel very comfortable here. I felt very comfortable before today. If I didn't, I wouldn't have signed here in the first place.

"It's all based around family here, and that's what I like.

"I told my mom I was going to do it (kiss the Block S), and she said I had better do it."

Saginaw dominated from the beginning, jumping out to a 22-12 lead. Their lead fluctuated between 13 and 22 points from the midway point of the second quarter, on.

Tennessee commitment Daniel West scored 21 with 6 assists at point guard (one turnover). He was quick, decisive and deceptively strong. He can hit the open jumper, or move the ball expertly to teammates.

Budding junior Mike Green, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, scored a game-high 29. He was 10-of-19 from the field and 6-of-13 from long range.

"For a man (Draymond Green) to have 21 and 19 rebounds in a state championship game, and for Mike (Green) to drop 29, and D West managed the basketball game, you can't ask for anything more as a coach," said Saginaw head coach Lou Dawkins.

"What these young men presented today was amazing. We shot lights-out from the perimeter.

"We have a lot of doubters out there, didn't think that we would be able to do it. When we get threatened, that brings out the best in these young men."

When asked if his team is the best in the nation, Dawkins said: "Oh yeah. We tried to get some of those teams that play on TV to play us. I don't know what happened. We tried and we pushed it. And we feel in our heart, you can bring on anybody, and we'll meet you in Russia, Japan or wherever.

"A lot of it is hype. These young men are from the city. I don't care who you bring. We live and die for basketball."

Draymond Green has been the cornerstone. A year ago, he played more of a face-up power forward in helping Saginaw win the state title while Josh Southern (now at St. John's) manned the post.

"I'm willing to do whatever is best for my team," Green said. "Last year, I was needed outside. But this year, I knew I was going to be the biggest person on our team, so I had to go inside and I had to make my living down there. Like my old assistant coach Bruce Simmons used to tell me, when I get down low, it's my money. But when I get outside, it's the butter."

No one is exactly sure what that means, but it was Green's second reference to the dairy product of the night.

"It's something you dream of as a child just to win one state championship, and to win two is just unbelievable," Green said. "
"You can't even explain it in words. Those are going to be memories forever. I mean we're in history.

"Everybody thought, when we lost a lot of our players, that we weren't going to go back. But we all knew. Like coach always says, the only people that knew what was going on between our team is us. The things that go on in our gym stays in our gym. So it's just one big family.

"And then when teams get to talking about us, they are always doubting us, 'Saginaw who?' But you know we've got to go get that butter."

Green got it with his usual assortment of shots. He canned them from the outside, off the dribble, on the boards, at the line. He got tough with a strong, quick, compact drop step on one occasion.

He battled with Detroit Pershing junior Derrick Nix, a 6-foot-9, 300-plus pounder. Nix finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. One day earlier, Nix 17 and 16 in the semifinals against Romulus.

Green had 30 points and 16 rebounds in a 69-49 victory over East Lansing in the semifinals.

Green averaged 25.5 points and 17.5 rebounds in the two games at the Breslin Center this weekend, perhaps causing some Mr. Basketball voters to reconsider their ballots. He finished second to Frankenmuth guard Brad Redford (Xavier) in Mr. Basketball voting.

Green didn't dwell on it after the game.

"For me, to win Mr. Basketball, it was an individual award, but I'm not about individual awards," Green said. "I'm about team awards because we all get the award. Even if I had won Mr. Basketball, it still would have been a team award because without them I can't do anything. So I think God for putting the coaches and teammates in my life to be successful."

QUITE A PACKAGE

Green is vocal on the court, and effervescent off of it, which is somewhat rare for a big man. His big smile is in Magic Johnson's league. He talks team, and commitment to his coaches. His personality is exceptional.

On the court, he isn't quite like anything Tom Izzo has signed in the past. He doesn't seem to fit the traditional Izzo model, in that Green is a big-bodied guy, under 6-foot-8.

Green has the shoulder height, length and strength to play post defense in the Big Ten. He might not be able to handle a Greg Oden type down low as well as a Drew Naymick did, but he should be able to play defense on most post players and pretty much all power forwards. If Jarrett Stephens could do it, Green can do it.

And don't be surprised if he rebounds a lot better than Naymick, despite being at least three inches shorter. Green is quick to the ball, and is hungry for it, a trait that usually translates well to the next level, even with the opposition gets taller. Green will go get it.

On offense, he can shoot the 3 well enough to force defenders to come out and guard him. When they go out there, he has the ball handling ability to go around them, for his shot or the dish. That's the essence of a mismatch power forward, a card Izzo likes to have in his hand but hasn't had often enough in recent years.

Izzo has voiced a desire to go a bit smaller, and more athletic at the post positions in the future. Green, along with fellow 2008 signee Delvon Roe, are a part of that movement. Both are active and highly skilled, with Roe more of the finesse variety and Green possessing a little more brutality. Either player has the capacity to be a menacing face-up four.

If the trend continues for more and more teams to look to go smaller and quicker at the post positions, it's not outlandish to think that they could share the court together against many opponents.

Green's shooting range is a bit better than Roe's. Both players can face and take you off the dribble.

Don't underestimate Green's ability to be a pick-and-pop guy at the four. A.J. Granger turned that role into an art form at MSU. Green can aspire to shoot well enough to be mentioned in the same sentence as Granger some day, yet he possesses much better ability to complement that range with driving ability.

MSU scouted Green for a long time before deciding to offer a scholarship last summer. The evaluation took a while partly because he isn't quite a cookie cutter version of any past MSU player. But being the first Draymond Green could have some value too; he might create a new page in the Izzo blueprint.

The closest thing Izzo has had to Green is probably the 2005 version of Alan Anderson, who served as a quick, mismatch power forward at 6-foot-6.

"That's who they (the MSU coaches) compare me to, Alan Anderson," Green said. "I just have to get my body in shape and the sky is the limit for me."

Green is an inch taller than Anderson, with longer arms and bigger boned. Green is much more comfortable making combat in the interior.

Anderson developed an excellent 16-foot shot off the dribble and became a pretty good 3-point shooter. Anderson was the best ball handler on the team for most of his years at MSU and his main weapon was his quick first step when driving against bigger, slower power forwards.

Roe has also been compared to the '05 Anderson as well, but with more height and interior scoring know-how.

No one is quite sure what Green might become if and when he chisels his body.

"I need to work out, tone my body up and lose more weight and just prepare for the college life," Green said. "I'm still not finished listening to my coach. I have to go through some more training with him (Dawkins) to get prepared for college. Three more months till I'll be here."

Green is already listening to Izzo and company.

"I'm on an eating plan right now," said Green, who has battled weight problems at times. "Since I've been on the eating plan for like three weeks, I've already lost 10 pounds. It's a great plan, and I'll start back working out, and not just practicing, but working out one-on-one with Coach, lifting weights, running hills, everything."

What does the plan call for?

"Turkey, turkey bacon, everything turkey, turkey sausages, things with less fat in them," he said.

"I'm going to have to use everything I've been through, because it's not going to be easy. It's a big transition, going from high school to college, and going to the level that I'm going to, it's going to be an even bigger transition.

"Some players don't make that transition as fast as others, but I plan on making it."

MSU coaches have warned Green that he could eat his way to a redshirt if he's not careful. Green doesn't mind demands and motivation.

"Coach Dawkins is the same way," Green said. "He expects the best out of you. He is going to get the best out of his players, and that's what Coach Izzo is about. Everybody calls him a maniac and things like that, he's crazy, but I need a coach like that to push me. If you have a coach that is going to let you shoot 20 shots a game and not get on you, you will never get better. So I need a coach like that to improve each and every day."

AROUND PRESS ROOM: Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press offered these Draymond Green comparisons, "Last year, he (Green) was Antonio Gates. Now he is Jay Vincent."

Others around the press area seemed to be agree with the Vincent comparison.

Me? Vincent was more of a turn-around jumper guy from what I remember. I think Green has a little more face-up creativity than was en vogue for post players in the late 1970s and early '80s. You can tell me if I'm wrong at jimcomp@sbcglobal.net

Till then, I'm sticking with my comparison to Popeye Jones, the point pivot mismatch from Murray State whom MSU found impossible to guard in the scariest 1 vs. 16 overtime thriller in NCAA Tournament history, back in 1990.

Jones was a baby-fatted, 6-foot-7 strong guy who could finish with a spin or a drop step in the paint as effortlessly as his ability to face up and drill the 3-pointer. He could also score on anything in between and could jump pretty well. Jones and Green have a similar body type, similar skill set, similar feel for loose balls, similar arm length and hands. Jones had bigger ears.

Green doesn't just have good hands. He has very good hands, Arthur Johnson (Detroit Pershing 2000/Missouri) hands. Special hands.

The arm length, the hands, the hunger to own loose balls could help Green become the type of range rebounder that Izzo has needed and sorely missed in the last two or three years.

ALREADY RECRUITING FOR MSU? Izzo has long said that his program is at its best when his players become his best, most-active recruiters. Well, it appears that Green is already at it.

In the last minute of the state title game, Green was seen smilingly chatting with standout sophomore Pershing point guard Keith Appling. Appling pointed to the Breslin floor and at one point, according to amateur lip readers, told Green, "I'm coming here."

Green answered, "I'd like that."

During post-game interviews, Green was asked about that conversation.

"Oh we were just talking about some things that might take place in the future," Green said, with his big smile getting even bigger. "I can't speak on that. You'll have to ask Keith that."

THE OTHER GREEN As for the other Green, junior guard Mike Green is already on the map as a football prospect for 2009 at wide receiver. His big performance in the state title game will surely cause some eyes to open on the basketball circuit, too.

"He's not flamboyant with his ball handling skills, but if you give that boy an inch, he'll light it up," Dawkins said of Mike Green. "There is room for improvement. He has to get better in the off-season with his ball handling and his stopping and popping."

Mag.com's take: Green can certainly shoot. But the need for more ball handling work became apparent on a couple of left-handed drives in the second half that were a little loose in the handle. But it's easier for a shooter to develop ball handling skills than it is for a ball handler to become a good shooter. He can shoot.




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