13 MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans hope the new Derrick Nix can be the next Draymond Green
November 12, 2012

What was Derrick Nix thinking?

"I was like, This can't be me, it can't be me in this car, it's got to be somebody else," Nix says. "But it was me. I got arrested."

It was last April 2, the night Kentucky beat Kansas for the national championship. Earlier in the evening Nix had spoken with coach Tom Izzo after a team meeting. They talked about the coming fall and the ways in which Nix, a 6'9" center who had averaged 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds as a junior, could become a team leader while taking his game to an NBA-ready level—essentially filling the role of departing All-America forward Draymond Green.

Nix then joined his teammates at Green's place to watch the NCAA final but left at halftime. Just past midnight the 21-year-old was pulled over and arrested for operating a vehicle with "any presence of drugs" and for possession of marijuana. "[In jail] I was thinking about my teammates," Nix says. "I just went, Wow, I let these guys down."

Nine days later Nix pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving while impaired. (The marijuana possession charge was dismissed, and in May he was sentenced to 24 hours of community service and paid $853 in fines and court costs.) Since then, Nix has tried to rehabilitate his image—speaking at juvenile centers, at high schools and at youth camps, hoping to win back his teammates' trust by keeping his grades up and his weight steady (270 pounds). He logged more than 70 hours of community service and was at Izzo's beck and call all summer. ("Coach made my life hell," he says.) Last month the work paid off: The Spartans unanimously chose him as a co-captain.

"Was it a little scary to allow [the vote]?" Izzo says. "Yeah, it was. But did he deserve it? For what he did all summer, yeah." Although Nix was named preseason All--Big Ten, the past is never far from his mind. "I let a lot of people down," he says. "I don't want that to ever happen again."

Tournament Tracker

TITLE GAME

FINAL FOUR

ELITE EIGHT

SWEET 16

ROUND OF 32

ROUND OF 64

'08--09

'09--10

'10--11

'11--12

'12--13

Projected Starting Five

COACH Tom Izzo (18th season)

2011--12 RECORD 29--8

BIG TEN 13--5 (T-1st)

WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 58.6% Points: 57.6% Rebounds: 48.0%

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PG Keith Appling 6'1" Jr. 11.4 ppg 3.9 apg
SG Gary Harris* 6'4" Fr. 25.4 ppg 3.1 apg
G-F Branden Dawson 6'6" Soph. 8.4 ppg 4.5 rpg
C Adreian Payne 6'10" Jr. 7.0 ppg 4.2 rpg
C Derrick Nix 6'9" Sr. 8.1 ppg 3.8 rpg
KEY RESERVES
G Russell Byrd 6'7" Soph. 1.5 ppg 0.4 apg
G Travis Trice 6'0" Soph. 4.5 ppg 1.8 rpg

Returning starter

*High school stats

Telling Number

6 FINAL FOUR appearances in the last 13 years for Michigan State, the most trips of any school in that period. Every four-year player recruited by Tom Izzo has appeared in at least one Final Four.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHODERRICK NIX After he found trouble in the off-season, Nix's desire to atone—and tone—has been a benefit to the Spartans.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)