A beloved and well-respected Spartan grad returned to his old stomping grounds on Saturday.
Draymond “Day-Day” Green visited the Breslin Center to take in a Michigan State basketball game as the Spartans battled Minnesota. The former four-year star and current Warriors small forward watched as the Spartans downed the visiting Golden Gophers, 87-75.
Following the victory, Spartan Nation had a chance to catch up with Draymond Green. He talked about his adjustment to the NBA, his impressions with Tom Izzo’s 19th team and his return to East Lansing.
Green has been busy since he finished piling up accolades in a Green and White uniform. Four years at Michigan State prepared him well for the NBA, but making the transition is still very difficult. The schedule is more jam-packed, the stakes are higher and the game is faster.
The 6-foot-7 forward was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft, beginning his career under the watchful eye of former player and ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson.
Green saw significant playing time in his rookie season, as the Saginaw, Michigan native averaged 13.4 minutes per game. Green adjusted to the pro game quickly, posting 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
The adjustment wasn’t easy, but Green handled it well.
“There’s a bunch of differences,” Green said. “Number one [is] the schedule … You don’t get much time to adjust, you have to adjust on the fly. But once you … get the schedule figured out and the flow of the game and the speed of the game … it’s nothing really.”
Day-Day has come into his own this season, tabbing 4.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg while seeing the court for an average of 19.6 minutes per night. Green has improved in all aspects of the game, improving his accuracy shooting the ball and playing better defense. The second-year player is shooting at a 37.9 percent clip from the field, up over five percent from last season. In just 39 games this year, Green already has more blocks (33) and steals (43) than he did in all of last season.
The Golden State coaching staff has taken notice of Green’s development. Jackson mentioned recently that he would hire Green as an assistant coach if the youngster could no longer play.
“It means a lot to get that type of praise from Coach because he probably wouldn’t say that about a lot of people,” Green said. “It’s definitely an honor to be mentioned in that regard, but at the end of the day, I have a lot of work to do and I have to continue to get better in all aspects of the game.”
Green flew into East Lansing immediately following Golden State’s 99-97 win over the Celtics at home. The Warriors don’t play again until Wednesday, so Green had some free time.
Green made the trip despite the nine new stiches above his upper lip after Friday’s game. Boston’s Jordan Crawford elbowed Green in the face. The former Spartan still enjoyed sitting courtside and watching his former teammates play.
“[It was] definitely different, but exciting,” Green said. “Just seeing those guys on the court doing their thing [is great]. The motivation, that swagger they carry out there, that confidence, it’s always good to be out there watching. To see that from a personal standpoint, I felt like it was amazing and it was going to get better.”
Michigan State took good care of its favorite son, shining a spotlight on Green and making him feel welcome. But Green is not one to hog the limelight.
“I definitely don’t want it to be about me and also my lip,” Green said. “It’s not about me, it’s about those guys out there putting the work in, that’s the most important thing. It’s always great to get guys coming back, that’s phenomenal, but at the end of the day, my days here are over. It’s not about me anymore; it’s about those guys on the court.”
Day-Day loved seeing his Spartans capture a win over the Golden Gophers. The former Spartan stud was impressed with MSU’s performance. Though the Spartans haven’t been at full strength yet, Green sees greatness in this team.
“A good team, a very good team, but they’re just starting to scratch the surface of how good they can be,” he said. “Part of that is getting healthy. Once they get everyone healthy and playing together, everything is going to flow better. But overall, I think this team can be great and when I say great, I really believe it. It’s not bias. I’ve seen a lot of teams in college basketball and I can see why Michigan State is better.”
The Spartan Nation has much to look forward to. Green is quickly becoming a key part of a playoff contending Warriors team and Izzo’s men are poised for a lengthy NCAA Tournament run. Green and White faithful are in for a fun ride.