Monday, January 30, 2012

Polled: Derrick Nix voted most surprising player

After the loss to Michigan, I put up a poll on who had been the most surprising player on MSU, which has had a surprising season. The results were as follows:

Derrick Nix won quite handily. Big Ten Network's "The Journey" agreed, featuring Nix on the show last night. If you missed it, don't worry. It will air plenty of times during the week.

But let's look at Nix. In his first two seasons, he averaged 2.3 and 2.7 points, respectively. That's up to 8.1 points this season. 

With the transfer of Garrick Sherman and retirement of Delvon Roe, Nix's playing time has gone up to 18.4 minutes per game. He averaged 7.8 and 8.2 in his first two seasons. Part of the increase in playing time is depth, but the biggest reason is because Nix has finally gotten in shape.

He came to MSU weighing well over 300 pounds. Tom Izzo made no bones about Nix needing to lose weight. So Nix changed his body in the offseason, getting down to about 270 pounds. But early last season, the problems resurfaced and Nix got bigger. He was left home from the Maui Invitational and came to a crossroads

He worked hard the rest of the season, but you can't change your body during the season, so Nix was limited. This past offseason, Nix got back to work, changed his body and kept it that way. He's listed at 270 pounds on MSU's website. As he said on The Journey, "I used to eat a lot of KFC, Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's." Now he's seen around campus eating Subway. To represent his newfound work ethic, he cut his jersey number in half, from 50 to 25.

He's always had the ability, being awarded Michigan's Mr. Basketball award in 2009, so in that sense, his success this season shouldn't be surprising. But given how the first two seasons went, Nix's season has been quite surprising and refreshing to fans.

For a big man, his footwork has always been fantastic, but his weight made it harder for him to move. Make no mistake, his weight still is important — evidenced by how he pushed Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III around — but his weight no longer is a disadvantage to himself.

MSU has the post presence it was missing last year, and Nix has been a major reason this Spartan team is ranked in the top 10. A bigger leadership role could be in Nix's future, but for now, he'll keep surprising people on the court.

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