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Gophers coach Tubby Smith on Draymond Green: “Draymond is what you want in a power forward. It’s the respect he commands from his teammates.”

Andy King, Associated Press

GOPHERS VS. NO. 6 MICHIGAN STATE 7:30 tonight • Williams Arena • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

Michigan State's Draymond Green: Taking whatever he wants

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Star Tribune
  • February 22, 2012 - 7:48 AM

This past weekend, Draymond Green opened the center console in his car to do some spring cleaning and pulled out a sheet of paper. On it was a list -- typed out by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo almost a year ago -- of things the forward could improve in his senior season.

But the list wasn't hidden there because Green discarded it; rather, he already had burned the tasks into his steel-trap brain.

And once Green decides on something, it's pretty much done.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm very self-driven," Green said. "[Izzo] spends a lot of time talking to me about those things because he knows I'm going to spend a lot of time in the gym by myself on the things I need to work on."

That attitude, more than anything, explains why the 6-7, 230-pound senior forward has become so proficient at so many things over his college career, why he has carried the Spartans to a No. 6 ranking coming into Wednesday's game against the Gophers and why he might be the most mentally -- and physically -- tough player in the Big Ten.

"It's Draymond Green's team, and I think that's the biggest thing," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "He's a great leader; he wants the ball in clutch situations, but he doesn't necessarily have to make the shot because he can make decisions. A lot of times guys that can make shots can't necessarily make decisions."

But decisions are Green's specialty.

On the court, he makes passes and starts plays based on things he has envisioned two or three moves ahead. For the past month, he has decided to play despite hobbling on a knee that could use a rest.

All of it is because of a decision the Saginaw, Mich., native made as a kid -- that if Green was going to do this, he would do it well.

"That's one thing that was always instilled in me as a child, but even when I got to Michigan State, Coach Izzo took it to a whole new level," Green said.

The senior converted checklist after checklist into tangible improvement. And this season, he has taken his skill set and used it to fully attack one of the points from the sheet stashed in his car: becoming a better leader.

The result has made him one of the best players in the country on one of the most chemistry-laden teams, and just the kind of influential player the Gophers -- who desperately need a spark and a leader -- wish they had right now.

"Draymond is what you want in a power forward," said Gophers coach Tubby Smith, who tried to recruit Green out of high school. "It's the respect he commands from his teammates. They're willing to follow him. And they'll respond to him and he can get in their faces, because they know -- he's doing it; he's living it ... it's hard to find."

Green takes his role -- like everything else -- seriously. So much so that his pain becomes secondary.

Three weeks ago, Green went down because of what looked like a potential season-ending knee injury in the final minutes of a loss to Illinois. But when he was told the next day it was only a sprain, the decision already was made -- he would play.

And once Green decides something it's pretty much done.

How done? Reporters asked him what development might keep him benched.

"Death," Green replied a couple of days before helping the Spartans down rival Michigan.

"One thing I've gotten used to since Draymond was in ninth grade, having seen him since then, was to never question his toughness," Izzo said. "I'm sure some people would tell him, 'Don't play, don't do this, don't do that.' I think his answer for what would have kept him out of the Michigan game -- death -- was probably about as good an answer as Draymond Green can give and about as sincere a one as he can give."

That toughness was something that never had to be on any list. It's the thing burning within him that's pushed him to achieve everything else, no matter what.

"He dreams big, he wants to accomplish things," Izzo said. "I've just been lucky that 99 percent of the things he wants to accomplish are team things. Even though he has some personal goals, he always put his team in front of those, injuries included."

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