Derrick Nix finally let it out Thursday, saying what he really thought about how Michigan State’s players are perceived — under appreciated, disrespected — compared to some of their upper-tier Big Ten brethren.
It’s one of the personality traits I like best about Nix. He’s genuine, says what’s on his mind. More players should do it. The repercussions are rarely serious and Nix probably sleeps better because of it.
“I take it personally,” Nix said “Everyone saying Michigan this, Michigan that, and they don’t give us no credit.”
Nix said if Michigan would have won Tuesday, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway “would have been God. … We won and they didn’t even show our highlights.”
Nix also sounded off the how the Spartans are perceived as NBA prospects.
“I don’t know if it’s us as players, I don’t know if it’s Michigan State, I don’t know what it is. I just feel like none of us get credit. (Indiana’s Victor) Oladipo is no different than (Branden) Dawson. Dawson’s not on the draft board, Oladipo is in the top 15.
“Payne is 6-10, can do everything that (Cody) Zeller can do. He’s not on the draft board, Zeller is in the top 5. I mean, I can do everything Reggie Johnson from Miami can do. He’s on draft boards, I’m not. Keith (Appling) can do everything Trey Burke can do. Trey Burke’s in the top 5, Keith’s not. Gary (Harris) can do everything that (Shabazz) Muhammad from UCLA can do. He’s on draft boards, Gary’s not. We’re just, we’re underdogs.”
I agree with Nix on some of this. Michigan State has been much less talked about than Indiana or Michigan (though that will change, especially if MSU wins Tuesday against the Hoosiers).
A lot of that, I think, has to do with MSU’s success over the last 16 years. The Spartans aren’t a new story. Michigan and Indiana are. They’re storied programs that have come back from the dead and that makes them interesting.
And, in a national media world where a disabled cruise ship becomes the ONLY story on earth, most media brains apparently aren’t capable of looking deeper to find the new stories at a place like MSU.
On the NBA front, however, I only partially agree with Nix.
The Payne-Zeller difference is mostly about height — 6-foot-10 vs. 7-feet. But, as they are as players today, Zeller is overrated. He’s an NBA journeyman, unless he gets a ton stronger. And Payne has a chance to be a good 4-man at the next level. But, like Zeller, he’s not there yet.
The Nix-Johnson comparison is also a difference in height and wingspan. Johnson’s at least an inch taller, with a 7-2 wingspan. And even though he doesn’t have Nix’s court vision, that makes him a better prospect in the eyes of the NBA. There simply aren’t many 6-8, 6-9 centers at the next level. (Still, at worst, Nix is going to be making six-figures, tax-free, playing in a top league overseas; not a bad way to spend your 20s.)
Oladipo and Dawson are different players — one a guard, the other a forward. Oladipo is more electrifying and, to this point, plays with a more consistent motor. But if Dawson’s ball-handling and shooting continue to improve, as they have, he’ll be a first-round NBA prospect.
Comparing Harris with Muhammad is all about height, even if their listed heights were true. Harris is 6-4 (really closer to 6-2) and Muhammad is listed at 6-6. That’s a substantial difference in the world of NBA 2-guards.
I think Harris will play in the NBA. But no matter what Chad Ford writes about Harris as a first-round prospect, I don’t see him leaving after this year, and maybe not early at all.
Lastly, the Appling-Burke comparison …
Appling is a fantastic college player and maybe a 10-year NBA guy, but most likely as a backup point guard. Burke is likely something more. I don’t think he’s over-hyped at all. As a college player, Appling undoubtedly is among the elite and absolutely underrated (See any comparison, ever, with Aaron Craft.).
Regardless, it was a refreshing take from Nix, who said what I think a lot of us sometimes think.