Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 11 – Draymond Green

This is the 40th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 11 – Draymond Green
Forward, 2008-12, Saginaw

The Skinny: Green’s senior season is one of the great years in MSU basketball history, in terms of production, leadership and winning beyond expectations. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 2011-12, carrying an otherwise fairly immature group to 29 wins, a Big Ten championship, a Big Ten tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Green was a consensus All-American after that season, one of three in MSU basketball history. Mateen Cleaves and Magic Johnson are the others.

Draymond Green is considered one of the two great leaders of the Tom Izzo era, along with Mateen Cleaves. Both were consensus All-Americans at MSU. Magic Johnson was the only other consensus All-American in program history. (LSJ file)

In the Tom Izzo era, Green is considered alone in a class with Cleaves in terms of ability to steer and will a team. He played Final Four clubs his first two seasons — as the go-to guy on the final possession as a sophomore — and won three Big Ten titles. As a senior, Green was selected as the Big Ten player of the year and the National Basketball Coaches Association’s player of the year.

He is the school’s all-time leading rebounder (1,096), one of four over 1,000. He and Greg Kelser are the only at MSU to finish with more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. And while that has a lot to do with playing in a school-record 145 games — 82 more than Johnny Green, for example — so does era. Green and Antonio Smith are tied for the most rebounds per game averaged in a season (10.6) at MSU since Kelser’s 10.8 in 1976-77.

Green is also second at MSU in career steals, third in blocked shots and the only player other than Magic and Charlie Bell to record a triple-double. Magic had eight, Green three, Bell one.

Green was not only a post player, but essentially MSU’s point forward. He became increasingly difficult to guard as he added a 3-point shot to his game, making 89 3s over his final two seasons.

Why he’s No. 11: Green vs. Terry Furlow (No. 13 on this list) was an interesting debate. The big-time scoring numbers vs. big-time winning and leadership. Era has a ton to do with Green’s place here. Not old-timers vs. modern players as much as MSU’s modern era. Final Fours and Big Ten titles are commonplace. But when putting together an historical list, that can’t diminish them.   Green won at an exceptional rate and, at the end, MSU won big almost solely because of his play and leadership.

Previously …
No. 12: Terry Furlow
No. 13: Ralph Simpson
No. 14: Julius McCoy
No. 15: Sam Vincent
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 12 – Terry Furlow

This is the 39th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 12 – Terry Furlow
Guard, 1972-76, Flint

The Skinny: Furlow might be the greatest scorer in MSU history, a matter record as much as folk lore. He averaged 29.4 points as a senior — which remains a school record. In one week that season, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard scored a still-program-record 50 points against Iowa, 48 at Northwestern and then 42 against Ohio State. Those are the two highest scoring totals in a single game ever at MSU, followed by the fourth-highest total — all a decade before the 3-point shot.

Terry Furlow’s 29.4 scoring average in 1975-76 remains No. 1 in MSU history. He also produced top two scoring games at MSU, 50 and 48, in the same week. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Furlow was twice the Big Ten scoring champion, averaging 20.2 in league play in 1974-75 and 31 a year later. Mike Robinson and Jay Vincent are the only other Spartans to ever accomplish the feat twice. Furlow was twice first-team All-Big Ten and an All-American in 1975-76.

He left MSU as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,777 points, eventually passed by freshman teammate Greg Kelser, who admired Furlow and has said no one outworked him.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Furlow with the 12th overall pick in the 1976 draft. He had his best NBA season in 1979-80, before dying in a car accident on May 23, 1980 in Ohio.

Why he’s No. 12: After writing the above, this section feels as if it should be titled, “Then why the hell is he only No. 12?” The answer is comparative (as with everyone on this list) and has something to do winning and leadership.

Furlow was one of the 10 players on the 1975 team who walked out in protest, arguing racial bias from coach Gus Ganakas, before a visit from national power Indiana. The suspension of those players for the game against the Hoosiers led to a 107-55 home defeat.

Furlow’s teams, despite including Mike Robinson, Lindsay Hairston, Robert Chapman and, briefly, Kelser, never finished higher than fourth in the Big Ten, the fallout of the walkout a year earlier hanging over Furlow’s final season.

By contrast, Draymond Green (still to come on this list), for example, led a relatively unheralded group to the Big Ten title a couple years ago, with more than his on-court scoring and rebounding talents.

Previously …
No. 13: Ralph Simpson
No. 14: Julius McCoy
No. 15: Sam Vincent
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 13 – Ralph Simpson

This is the 38th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 13 – Ralph Simpson
Wing, 1969-70, Detroit

The Skinny: Had Simpson simply stuck around another season, he’d be somewhere in the top 10, maybe the top five. But his one season at MSU in 1969-70 was so spectacular it surpasses a lot of distinguished careers. Simpson’s sophomore season (before freshmen were allowed to play) is among the best individual winters in Spartan history. Simpson averaged 29 points, seven times scoring 35 or more, with a season-high 42. He also averaged 10.3 rebounds (including one 20-rebound game), and was selected as an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten.

Ralph Simpson averaged 29 points and 10.3 rebounds during his only season at MSU, in 1969-70. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Simpson left for the ABA’s Denver Rockets after that season, and had an up-and-down, decade-long pro career in both the ABA and NBA. Had he stayed at MSU another couple seasons (back when most players played out their eligibility), his career would have intersected with Mike Robinson and Bill Kilgore, and MSU basketball history might be different. Instead, Robinson played one losing season at MSU — 9-15 overall, 5-9 in the Big Ten — and the first Robinson-Kilgore team two years later finished a modest 13-11 and fifth in the league standings.

Why he’s No. 13: The numbers are that good, as was the player. As a talent alone, there aren’t a dozen better who’ve played in East Lansing than Simpson. But longevity and impact matter here. Marcus Taylor’s one terrific February put him at No. 50 on this list, Jason Richardson’s All-American sophomore season has him at 29. Simpson’s presence at MSU didn’t lead to anything after him, or even wins while he was here.

Previously …
No. 14: Julius McCoy
No. 15: Sam Vincent
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments | | |

Counting down the top 50 MSU basketball players all-time: No. 14 – Julius McCoy

This is the 37th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 14 – Julius McCoy
Forward, 1953-56, Farrell, Pa.

The Skinny: If McCoy had come a long a year or a couple decades later, he might be even higher on this list and a household name for even younger generations of Spartan fans. McCoy’s 27.2 points per game in 1955-56 remain fourth all-time at MSU. He scored 1,377 points in three seasons in East Lansing, and remained the Spartans’ leading career scorer until Mike Robinson passed him almost 20 years later.

Julius McCoy averaged 27.2 points and 10 rebounds in 1955-56. (MSU Athletic Communications)

McCoy, MSU’s first star of the Big Ten era, was a big-time athlete — a Pennsylvania high school 100-meter champion and a coveted football halfback. The 6-foot McCoy, a slasher on the court, averaged 18.6 points as a sophomore and, limited by an ankle injury, 16.7 as a junior. As a senior, McCoy’s 27-point, 10-rebound average earned him All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

He scored 40 or more points four times at MSU. His 45 points against Notre Dame in December of 1955 is tied for the third-most points scored by a Spartan.

Why he’s No. 14: McCoy, who died in 2008, played on two winning teams that finished in the upper half of the Big Ten. But he never played on a memorable MSU team, despite his career overlapping with Al Ferrari and Jack Quiggle. Had McCoy had another year of eligibility, he would have been on the 1957 Final Four club, with sophomore Johnny Green, and he’d probably be more widely known. Still, to average 27 points and shoot better than 42 percent in the mid-1950s is an amazing feat. McCoy was a modern elite athlete trapped in the film “Pleasantville.”

Previously …
No. 15: Sam Vincent
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 15 – Sam Vincent

This is the 36th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 15 – Sam Vincent
Guard, 1981-85, Lansing

The Skinny: Vincent’s career is overshadowed by his contemporary, Scott Skiles. The two played three seasons together and MSU’s best year in the 1980s, 1985-86, happened with Skiles but post-Vincent. Vincent, though, was an All-American and twice selected first-team All-Big Ten. He’s one eight Big Ten scoring champions at MSU, averaging 23.7 points in conference play in 1985 — the year before the 3-point shot became a permanent part of college basketball.

Sam Vincent led the Big Ten in scoring in 1985, averaging 23.7 points per game, scoring a career-high 39 against Purdue and 32 in his lone NCAA tournament game. (MSU Athletic Communications)

That he and Skiles were in the same backcourt in 1984-85 and the team finished 20-12, fifth in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, speaks to the dearth of consistent interior talent at MSU in that era, relative to today.

In his only NCAA tournament game, Vincent scored a game-high 32 points in 39 minutes. He started 109 of 110 games at MSU, scoring 11.7 points per game as freshman and 16.6 as a sophomore, leading MSU in scoring that season and as a senior.

Vincent starred at Lansing Eastern, winning the state’s first Mr. Basketball award in 1981. He scored 61 points in a game during his senior season, which broke Magic Johnson’s Lansing city scoring record. He later played seven seasons in the NBA — winning a title with the Boston Celtics as a rookie in 1986 — and coached the Charlotte Bobcats for one season in 2007-08.

Why he’s No. 15: We’re beginning to step into an uber-elite class on this countdown list, and Vincent belongs. He remains MSU’s seventh-leading scorer (1,851 points) despite playing between 20 and 30 fewer games than players do today. Just as players such as Charlie Bell shouldn’t be punished for modest stats on great teams, Vincent can only be knocked down the list so far for lack of winning. He’d be a big-time player at MSU today. He’s part of a legacy of great guards that sustained MSU and kept the program quasi-relevant until the Izzo era took hold.

Previously …
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 16 – Charlie Bell

This is the 35th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 16 – Charlie Bell
Guard, 1997-2001, Flint

The Skinny: Bell played more consequential minutes and in more big games than any MSU player in the history of the program. He started a school-record 136 games in four seasons, which resulted in four Big Ten titles, three Final Fours and a national championship.

Charlie Bell moved to point guard in 2000-01 and led MSU to another Big Ten title and Final Four, while being recognized as an All-American. (LSJ file)

A prolific high school scorer, Bell tailored his game to the team’s needs at MSU. He averaged 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds for his career, and is the best rebounding guard of the Tom Izzo era.

Bell played alongside Mateen Cleaves for three years, though often checked opposing point guards. Then, after three seasons as mostly an off-guard, he played out of position offensively at the point, and was an All-American, leading MSU back to the Final Four. Bell averaged 13.5 and 5.1 assists as a senior, selected first-team All-Big Ten.

Until Draymond Green showed up, Bell was the only Spartan to record a triple-double other than Magic Johnson.

Why he’s No. 16: For a while, Bell moved up this countdown list every time I took another look at it. His career, in terms of ability, value and program impact, should not be defined by numbers. Without him, MSU doesn’t win a national championship in 2000, or do anything relevant in 2001.

Bell had a horrible final game, against Arizona in 2001 Final Four, but he was the MVP of the NCAA tournament’s South Region in getting the Spartans there.

Previously …
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 17 – Horace Walker

This is the 34th in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 17 – Horace Walker
Forward, 1957-60, Chester, Pa.

The Skinny: The legend of Jumpin’ Johnny Green overshadows Walker in Spartan lore. They’re of the same era and overlapped for parts of two seasons. But at just 6-foot-3, there has never been a better rounder per inch at MSU than Walker. He averaged 17.7 rebounds in 1959-60, second only to Green’s 17.8 mark set two years earlier. Walker and Green also stand toe-to-toe, Nos. 1 and 2, in greatest single-game rebounding performances in program history, each with outings of 29 and 28. Walker also had games of 26 rebounds, 24 (three times), 23, 21 and 20.

Horace Walker averaged 17.7 rebounds per game in 1959-60, and holds many of the top single-game rebounding performances in MSU history. (MSU Athletic Communications)

In 1959-60, the year after Green’s departure, Walker was first-team All-Big Ten and a third team Associated Press All-American. A year earlier, he played with Green on the 1959 Big Ten championship and NCAA tournament club, averaging 13.5 rebounds. He scored 20 points in the Spartans’ tournament win over Marquette that season.

Gus Ganakas described the versatile Walker as “the perfect player.”

Why he’s No. 17: His rebounding numbers — even in the inflated by era in which he played — are impossible to ignore. Other than Green, no one comes close to Walker’s totals in 1959-60. He was a good scorer, too, though fell shy of 1,000 points at MSU because he only played two full seasons. He might be higher on this list if not for academic ineligibility at the midpoint of his sophomore season in 1957-58. After a 7-1 start, with MSU ranked No. 6 in the country, Walker was lost for the season. That team narrowly missed a Big Ten title, in the middle year of what could have been three straight, and three straight NCAA tournaments.

Previously …
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 18 – Kalin Lucas

This is the 33rd in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 18 – Kalin Lucas
Point guard, 2007-11, Detroit

The Skinny: Only seven players in MSU basketball history have ever won Big Ten Player of the Year. Lucas is among them, the first of that select club to be revealed on this countdown. He was twice first-team All-Big Ten, remains No. 5 all-time in points scored with 1,996 (behind only Shawn Respert, Steve Smith, Scott Skiles and Greg Kelser), and is No. 6 in careers assists.

Kalin Lucas is the fifth all-time leading scorer in MSU basketball history, four points shy of 2,000. (LSJ file)

Lucas was good immediately and great at his best, lightning quick, with an old-school mid-range game, and the catalyst behind two Final Four runs.

He was at his best in memorable NCAA tournament wins over Kansas and Connecticut in 2009, and opened the 2010 NCAA tournament with 25 points in a narrow win over New Mexico State.

Then his career, life and MSU legacy changed.

Why he’s No. 18: Had Lucas not torn his Achilles during the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament, MSU would likely have a second national championship under Tom Izzo, the disastrous 2010-11 season unfolds differently and Lucas is in the NBA. And, on this countdown list, he’s pushing he top 10.

Even so, for most of three seasons, Lucas was among the greats to ever play at MSU, the second elite point guard of the Izzo era and No. 4 in Spartan history behind Magic, Mateen and Skiles. That’s good company.

Previously …
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 19 – Adreian Payne

This is the 32nd in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 19 – Adreian Payne
Power forward / center, 2010-14, Dayton, Ohio

The Skinny: By the end of his career, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Payne was the most versatile imposing big man ever to play at MSU. Once an enigmatic talent, Payne put it together midway through his junior season. As a senior, he averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and hit 44 3-pointers (at 42 percent) in 28 games.

Adreian Payne scored 41 points against Delaware in this year’s NCAA tournament, breaking an MSU postseason record previously held by Greg Kelser, with 34 points against Notre Dame in 1979. (LSJ file)

Payne’s ceiling was even higher. He dominated an oversized Texas club in December, scoring 33 points on 10 of 13 shooting, almost all of it guarded one-on-one work in the post. And, in the first game of the NCAA tournament, he set an MSU postseason record with 41 points against Delaware, owning the paint, while hitting 4 of 5 3-pointers and all 17 free throws. It was the most points by any MSU player in 20 years.

Twice selected second-team All-Big Ten, Payne finished with program-best career 141 blocks and is one of nine MSU players with more than 1,200 points and 700 rebounds.

Why he’s No. 19: Payne’s numbers are somewhat lessened by his era — not the modern era, the elite team era. For example, he scored four points at Indiana as a senior but played beautifully, not forcing his offense against extra attention and shutting down NBA projected lottery pick Noah Vonleh, while MSU’s other stars took care of the points. In many eras of MSU basketball, Payne would have averaged more than 20 points per game last season and been called upon for bigger stats earlier in his career.

Like many great post players, Payne could raise his game in big moments and against key matchups — especially bulky, low-to-the-ground bigs. As sophomore, his 15 points against All-American Jared Sullinger were instrumental in winning at Ohio State. A year later, he was MSU’s best player in the NCAA tournament, tallying 14 points and 10 rebounds against both Memphis and Duke.

But it’s his senior year — which nearly didn’t happen — that puts him on this list at all, even with a chunk of games missed to a foot injury. If Payne is selected in the first round of next week’s NBA draft, as expected, his program impact will have extra reach, giving MSU a boost in recruiting.

Previously …
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 20 – Drew Neitzel

This is the 31st in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 20 – Drew Neitzel
Guard, 2004-08, Grand Rapids

The Skinny: Neitzel’s career was, in part, a throw-back to the old days of a star offense at MSU. In 2006-07, most of what the Spartans did was designed to get Neitzel a look at the basket, not so different from the days of Shawn Respert and Steve Smith, etc. Neitzel was up to the task, the 6-foot junior able to carry MSU to the NCAA tournament, keeping Tom Izzo’s ongoing 17-year NCAA tourney streak alive.

Drew Neitzel’s 273 career 3-pointers are third all-time at MSU, behind Shawn Respert and Chris Hill, his 582 assists are fourth, behind Mateen Cleaves, Scott Skiles and Eric Snow. (LSJ file)

Neitzel was first-team All-Big Ten that season, averaging 18.1 points and 4.3 assists. He made 114 3-pointers as a junior, the second most in a season at MSU (behind Shawn Respert’s 119 in 1994-95). Neitzel’s 97 3s as a senior are third most. He averaged 13.9 points as senior, surrounded by a talented class of freshman guards and wings, and was again first-team all-conference.

Neitzel’s career was split between point guard and shooting guard, and statistically he’s among the best at MSU to play either spot — third all-time in 3-pointers with 273 and fourth in assists at 582.

Neitzel bridged the gap between two of Izzo’s groups — starting 14 games at point guard as a freshman on the 2005 Final Four squad, then playing alongside the Kalin Lucas-led group that would get back to the Final Four twice, after after Neitzel left.

Why he’s No. 20: What separates Neitzel from comparable players in the Izzo era is 2006-07. If I were drafting a team, I’d rather have Maurice Ager. But Neitzel had to go it almost alone during that junior season and, with defenses keyed on him, he had enough to get MSU to 8-8 in the Big Ten, 22 wins overall and into the NCAA tournament. He scored 26 or more points six times that season, including 28 in knocking off No. 1 Wisconsin, the game that put MSU into the Big Dance. In terms of program impact, he kept alive a streak that’s a source pride and helps keep the Spartans in an elite class.

Previously …
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

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