Spartan Final Four Is a Date With Destiny


Destiny was not about to be denied on Sunday afternoon. Nowhere in the NCAA Tournament had destiny been so apparent as it was during MSU’s dismantling of overall #1 seeded Louisville. Destiny was on the side of the men-in-green and a date with U-Conn in Detroit seemed less appropriate and more justice for a state, a team, a city and the blue-collar coach who embodies the state of Michigan’s spirit.


Destiny brought Travis Walton from Lima to East Lansing. Izzo needed toughness reinstalled in his Spartan roster; Walton was destined for the label the moment he stepped into Breslin. In early March he was voted the Big Ten Conference’s most outstanding defensive player. He often left excellent shooters like Manny Harris, Robbie Hummel and Evan Turner dazed by his defense and their own lack of production against MSU’s 6’2” senior guard.


In war torn Bosnia the Suton family had to make the biggest decision of their lives. They either had to stick it out or start over. When Goran Suton first heard about the Final Four, his Bosnian coach actually spoke of MSU in the same breath. Mateen and company had won the title only weeks earlier. Suton jokingly said that maybe he’d play for them someday. Often seen as Tom Izzo’s biggest project (this is putting it nicely), Suton has not only overcome his war torn heritage, but the culture and intensity of the college basketball game. He has become a star for his Spartan team. He was the MVP of the Midwest Regional. He is Bosnian, but is as much an MSU and Lansing son as anything. His development and strong character were part of him long before he arrived in America. His date with destiny was in motion long before his playing career ever started at Lansing Everitt and Michigan State University.


When Tom Izzo spoke to then high school players and local Detroiters Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, a Final Four with family and friends was a part of the discussion. It was a dream for both to play basketball with one another at a Big Ten university and MSU had all the right ingredients and a proven Final Four record. They committed early bringing sharp shooter Chris Allen from Lawrenceville, Georgia along with them.


Destiny wasn’t about to deny its Detroit sons their goal of playing in Detroit for MSU in the Final Four. Chris Allen has Michigan roots also. His aunt lives in Lansing close to Earvin Johnson’s family. Summer and holiday visits to Lansing helped Allen fall in love with the MSU experience. As Chris Allen ascended the national rankings at the shooting guard position in high school, he developed a connection with Kalin, Durrell and the Spartan family at MSU shoot arounds and camps. Destiny was not to be denied again.


It was no secret that Draymond Green always wanted to wear Spartan green. He would have landed squarely in Lexington, Kentucky had UK treated Tubby with more respect. Green, nicknamed ‘Day Day’ by friends and family, committed to Kentucky and Tubby Smith, as Green could no longer wait for an MSU offer. Destiny reared its head again and Tubby left for the land of 10,000 Lakes and a helluva lot more appreciation. Green reconsidered his UK pledge and got that MSU offer most thought he would have when he became a standout in Saginaw as a sophomore.


The national and state media gushed over incoming recruits Delvon Roe (consensus top-ten recruit) and the ever shifty sharp shooting Korie Lucious and rightfully so. They are both very good players with a bright future at MSU. Little was spoken about ‘Day Day’ as most of the basketball world thought he’d be an undersized role player at MSU that would give some good minutes over his four year career.


Green was 30-40 pounds overweight as a high school senior. He had sustained an injury that took its toll on his conditioning and was told he’d have to shed some pounds before finding his way into the MSU line-up. A redshirt was talked about for Draymond before the 2008-2009 season. It wasn’t out of the question in November either. He made it very difficult for coach Izzo because he found a way to shed thirty pounds by the season’s opening tip.


Destiny found its way to ‘Day Day’ when Suton injured his knee and MSU needed frontcourt depth. It found him again when Raymar’s illness removed him from the Spartan line-up. Months later, it can be argued that Draymond Green is the best power forward on the Spartan basketball team. He embodies the same toughness as Travis Walton and his basketball IQ is bigger than his 6’6”, 235-pound body.


Some would argue with me, but many would not at this point in the season that ‘Day Day’ is the best of the three freshmen currently playing for Coach Izzo. As Green’s minutes went up throughout the Big Ten season, his confidence started to bloom. He is rarely out of position defensively; he is becoming a great rebounder and is often guarding men 2-5” taller than himself.Â


While the Louisville Cardinals were striking poses for the camera after their dunks and blocks, Draymond Green continued to carry his weight with big rebounds and basket tip ins. There were no awards given to the players with the prettiest shots or the most authoritative dunks. I am guessing that the crowd forgot about the Louisville alley-oop and blocked Suton three point attempt quickly after the buzzer sounded. Green isn’t about pretty shots or fancy dunks. He looks content to bring his lunch bucket, soft hands, heavy chin and big heart. Without ‘Day Day’ there is no Detroit.


Destiny has a funny way of rewarding those that work the hardest and play with integrity. Grittiness, toughness and a killer mentality found the Spartans at the right time. The Spartans have a date in Detroit with destiny. It could not have come at a better time.

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