Izzo: Green has great shot to have jersey retired
Draymond Green did enough at Michigan State to likely have his No. 23 hanging as a retired jersey in the Breslin Center's rafters.
"I'd say he has a great shot at it," Izzo said Tuesday.
The outgoing senior became the fourth Spartan selected to The Associated Press' All-America first team, joining Magic Johnson, Shawn Respert and Mateen Cleaves.
He would be the 10th player to have his jersey retired by Michigan State. The others are: Johnson, Respert, Cleaves, Johnny Green, Greg Kelser, Jay Vincent, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and Morris Peterson.
Finding players to step up as leaders without Green around was one of the challenges Izzo talked about while taking a look back at a season that started with the Spartans unranked and ended last week with them as a first-seeded team that was knocked out by Louisville.
"It was not one of our better performances and I'll give Louisville some credit for it," he said. "Nobody played well and our energy did not seem to be there."
The Spartans went 29-8, won the Big Ten tournament title, shared the conference championship in the regular season and advanced to the round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years.
Green will leave a void on the court, where he averaged 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and off it as a leader who helped to improve the team's chemistry.
"You may never have a leader like Draymond again," Izzo said.
Michigan State also will miss departing seniors Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood.
Izzo is hoping Derrick Nix becomes a captain as a senior next season and believes point guard Travis Trice could be a young leader as a sophomore.
The hard-driving coach wants Keith Appling to find his shooting stroke and to make more time to watch film to learn how to make teammates better. Nix has a goal of getting down to 260 pounds while Adreian Payne is trying to add 10 pounds to his lanky frame.
Izzo raved about his highly touted recruits who are on the way: Bay City's Matt Costello, who won the Mr. Basketball award, and runner-up Denzel Valentine of Lansing, along with Gary Harris, who was recognized as the top player in Indiana, and Ohio's Kenny Kaminski, who played well late in the season after being injured.
"We think we have an incredible class coming in," Izzo said.
As usual, the Spartans plan to be tested before the Big Ten season starts by playing a nonconference schedule that might include Kentucky along with Kansas.
"If I'm going to play somebody big, I want to play somebody big," Izzo said.
A feel-good season with players leading a team that freed Izzo up to coach and not deal with off-the-court distractions reassured him that he made the right decision to stay at Michigan State instead of leaving nearly two years ago to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I'm here as long as they want me here," he said.