Sunday, April 1, 2012

NABC names Green nation's top player, Izzo top coach

All Anthony Davis everything.

Once Kentucky reached the Final Four and Davis started to win every national player of the year award, I didn't think Draymond Green had a chance. But if there was an organization that was going to honor Green, it was going to the coaches.

Sunday night, the National Association of Basketball Coaches named Green the nation's top player and Tom Izzo the nation's top coach. Green becomes the third Spartan to win a national player of the year award, joining Scott Skiles (1986, Basketball Times) and Shawn Respert (1995, NABC, Sporting News).

Earlier this season, I made the case that the national player of the year race had three candidates, not two.  Most places seemed to think it finished as a one-man race as Davis won every national award and was nearing a clean sweep. But the coaches went with the coach on the floor; the guy who did everything.

For Izzo, this is the fifth season he has won national coach of the year honors.

Here is the release from MSU:

NEW ORLEANS – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and senior forward Draymond Green were honored as the best in the nation by the National Association of Basketball Coaches on Sunday night. Green became the third Spartan to ever earn National Player of the Year honors as he was named NABC Division I Player of the Year, while Izzo was named UPS NABC Division I Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, marking the eighth national award of his career.

“It means a lot to be one of only three players of the great Spartan tradition to win a player of the year award,” said Green. “We’re talking about greats like Smith, Cleaves, Johnson, Kelser and many more. For me to win an award of such great magnitude means a lot for me to be able to contribute to making this an even better program. I consider myself lucky to follow in their footsteps.

“Coming to Michigan State from Saginaw High School, I knew I was talented but my work ethic wasn’t where it needed to be. I always thought I was capable of doing some good things and helping my team win, but I didn’t envision that I was a player of the year level player. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that next step. I was fortunate enough to have Coach Izzo and Coach Dwayne Stephens and all the assistants show me the way and made me believe.”

“Draymond embodies everything that is right about a college basketball player and he’s very deserving of the award,” said Izzo. “He’s done what few can do and that’s get better each and every year. Four years ago, he came to Michigan State as a talented, but out-of-shape kid from Saginaw, and it’s been neat to watch his development. He’s worked hard on improving his decision making, his body and his versatile skill set. Most importantly, he developed into one of the best leaders in the game. But what’s most impressive about Draymond is that, like other great leaders like a Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves or Steve Smith that he looked up to, winning was always his first priority. It was never about individual stats or recognition, and that’s the reason he deserves everything he gets.

“You don’t get to coach a player like Draymond Green very often, but you appreciate it while you can. His efforts, along with those of his fellow seniors and all his teammates are responsible for my award. I’ve always said that no coach ever gets to make a shot, grab a rebound or make a defensive stop. Players play the game, and this year’s team gave me everything they had. As a coach, that’s all you can ask.”

Green joins Scott Skiles (1986-Basketball Times) and Shawn Respert (1995-NABC & Sporting News) as the only Spartans to ever earn National Player of the Year honors. The Saginaw, Mich., native led the Spartans in scoring (16.2 ppg), rebounding (10.6 rpg), steals (54), and 3-point field goals (52), while ranking second in assists (3.8 apg) and blocks (36). On the season, he led MSU in rebounding in 31 of 37 games, including 16 of the 18 Big Ten contests.

Green finished his career as MSU's all-time leading rebounder (1,096), while ranking 17th in career scoring (1,517 points), second in career blocks (117) and second in career steals (180). He also finished just 27 assists shy of breaking into the Top 10.

On the season, Green ranked third in the nation with 22 double-doubles and ninth in rebounding (10.6 rpg). He finished the year with seven games of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, tying Ohio State's Evan Turner (2009-10) for the most by a player from a power six conference since 1996-97. He also became the first player from a power six conference to average 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists in a season since Tim Duncan accomplished the feat in 1996-97.

Among his impressive list of accolades, Green is a consensus First-Team All-American, earning first-team honors from the Associated Press, The Sporting News, United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the Wooden Award, and the NABC. He also was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, and earned a spot on the NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team.

This is the second NABC National Coach of the Year honor for Izzo, having previously received the honor in 2001. He was also named the top coach in the country in 1998 (Associated Press, Basketball News, United States Basketball Writers Association), 1999 (Basketball Times), and 2005 (Clair Bee). Earlier this season, Izzo was honored by

Michigan State finished with a 29-8 record, capturing a share of the regular-season Big Ten Championship and the Big Ten Tournament title. The Spartans became just the 10th team in NCAA history to go from unranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Izzo was also named the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year, marking the third time he has won the award (1998, 2009).

The Spartans entered the season with just two players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game in 2010-11. After starting the season 0-2 with neutral site losses to No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke, Michigan State won 15 straight games to vault into the Top 10.

MSU opened conference play with four wins, but dropped three of its next five. Standing at 6-3 in league play, Izzo guided the Spartans to seven straight conference wins to grab a share of the league title. He won his 400th game as a head coach on Jan. 25 as MSU defeated Minnesota at the Breslin Center, 68-52.

Izzo, who recently completed his 17th season as head coach at Michigan State, owns a 412-169 (.709) career record. He has led Michigan State to six Final Fours (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010) and the 2000 National Championship.

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