By Adam Biggers
Michigan State Spartans basketball followers have already dubbed senior Draymond Green as one of the program's greatest players, and his career hasn't even ended.
Coach Tom Izzo has spoken highly of Green, who won the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year Award and is in the running for the 2012 Naismith Award, given annually to the country's top player.
Fans, media, coaches, and analysts alike, all agree that "Day-Day" is a special talent. But don't take their word for it—because in such a case, perhaps the old saying "It takes one to know one" comes into play.
Enter Shawn Respert, who is without a doubt a Michigan State legend. He holds the program's career-scoring record with 2,531 points and was voted as The Sporting News' Player of the Year in 1995. Many view Respert as the premier pure scorer to ever wear a Michigan State jersey.
Respert, who was a two-time All-American, is well aware of his former school's rich basketball history, citing players like Scott Skiles, Eric Snow, Steve Smith, Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser, among others, as the benchmark players in Michigan State lore.
And when it comes to the discussion of Michigan State's best-of-the-best, Respert's opinion carries an elephant's weight.
"I think Draymond is the epitome when we talk about Spartans greats," Respert said Monday. "He came in is as a highly-touted recruit, but there was nothing that would guarantee that he'd have the type of career he has had.
"He continued to improve and make his teammates better. That's the key when you talk about Spartans basketball—the guys who come in and blue-collar their way to greatness. I have a huge level of respect for him."
Green has essentially put the Spartans on his back during the NCAA Tournament, serving as a do-all tool which has the Spartans in the Sweet 16 for the 10th time under Coach Izzo. Michigan State, top-seeded in the West Region, has the opportunity to make it to the Final Four in New Orleans, but it has to first oust the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals on Thursday in Phoenix.
Green opened March Madness with a triple-double last Friday against LIU-Brooklyn and promptly followed with a double-double in a hard-fought 65-61 victory Sunday over the ninth-seeded St. Louis Billikens.
Respert says that Kentucky's shot-blocking phenom freshman Anthony Davis might be the "best" player in the country when it comes to pure dominance at a single position. However, he says that Green is the most valuable to his team, and one of the most versatile.
Kentucky would likely survive and contend in the tournament without Davis, who is surrounded by four- and five-star recruits.
Green, on the other hand, transforms Michigan State from a "top 15 or 20 team" to a national contender. And for that, he should be greatly considered for the Naismith Award.
"Draymond Green gets a little bit of an edge in terms of value to a team that could be average without him," Respert said.
Seeing "Day-Day" excel on the court has been enjoyable for Respert. However, seeing Green flourish after his time at Michigan State—whether it be on the court in the NBA, or life in general—is what Respert looks forward to most.
"We want our guys to go out in the world and do great things, whatever it is," said Respert, who works for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves as a player mentor and developer. "He's a guy that you don't worry about being successful after the game basketball."
Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81, or, reach him by e-mail at Adam.Biggers@Yahoo.com. Adam would like to extend a special "thank you" to Shawn Respert for taking time to talk Spartans basketball.