By Adam Biggers
It should come to no surprise that Draymond Green was named the Big Ten's Player of the Year.
The Michigan State Spartans' do-everything senior star led his team to a share of a regular-season conference title, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing three assists per game in the process. His presence alone was the key to the Spartans' success. For without Green, many viewed Michigan State as an average group in the Big Ten—but that's what a player of Green's caliber does: Makes his team better.
For the past two seasons, Green has shown that he was much more than an around-the-basket scorer, showcasing his 3-point prowess and ability to move the ball as well as any player his size in the country. At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Green played, at times, more like a point guard rather than a forward. His 17 double-doubles in Big Ten play only highlighted what was an incredible resume this season. However, an outright Big Ten title would have made it glow.
A year ago, the Spartans hobbled into March Madness, only to meet their demise in the first round by way of a loss to UCLA. But, because of Green, the Spartans rose to the top of the Big Ten standings this season and solidified themselves as a top 10 team in the nation.
A first-round loss doesn't appear to be in the cards for Michigan State (24-7, 13-5) this March. Most college basketball pundits feel Michigan State could make a run to, or past, the Sweet 16.
And again, that's due to Green.
"He's the most versatile player maybe in America," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who was named the league's Coach of the Year. "He does as many things or more things than anybody I've seen in this league in a while."
Green became the seventh Spartans player to earn the Big Ten Player of the Year distinction, joining legends like Scott Skiles, Mateen Cleaves, Shawn Respert, Morris Peterson and Jay Vincent. Considering the aforementioned players' resumes, Green also put himself in the category of the historically great players to ever suit up in East Lansing.
While joining the ranks of the Spartans elite was certainly the icing on the cake, Green started the season with a more attainable goal: Winning conference player of the year honors. As a senior of his stature should, Green weighed his competition at the season's start.
"Coming into the season, being named Player of the Year was something that Coach Izzo and I had talked about, but everyone thought it would be Jared Sullinger," Green said in a statement. "Usually the best player on the best team gets a lot of publicity, and as we got better and started to win more games, I started getting thrown into that conversation.
"As my play started getting better, it became more of a realistic goal to have. It was a goal I set because I like to set goals, but it seemed so far out of reach coming into the season…"
While he was officially given the honor Monday, Green, for all intents and purposes, won the Player of the Year award two weeks ago. He was named the BBWA's Player of the Week and was fresh off a stellar performance in a 58-48 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. It was obvious he no longer had any competition in the race.
Green may not the be the "sexy" pick for the award. He may not be the flashiest, most exciting player to watch, either. But he is the most valuable to his team, and without a doubt the premier leader in the Big Ten—if not in the country. There aren't many players who can do what Green does physically, or mentally, for that matter. And for that, he's most deserving on the conference's crowning achievement.
Other Spartans honorees...
Senior Austin Thornton won the Big Ten's Sportsmanship Award.
Freshman Branden Dawson was named to the All-Freshman Team.
Sophomore Keith Appling was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team.
Tom Izzo earned his third Big Ten Coach the Year Award, although, he says Tom Crean of Indiana, John Beilein of Michigan or Fran McCaffrey of Iowa were also deserving.