By Paul M. Banks
As Kermit the frog once taught us, “it’s not easy being green.” To wear the green and white of Michigan State, a player must be tough, tenacious, defend like his hair is on fire and be almost willing to give his life for a defensive rebound. Kind of sounds like sophomore forward Draymond Green.
Like the narrator said in “300,” “Only the hard can be Spartans, only the strong.”
After the ESPN College Gameday contest at Illinois, Tom Izzo summed it up best “He’s a warrior, man. He’s a warrior,” Izzo said. “He just grits his teeth and doesn’t care about all the flash and dash. He is the perfect Spartan. He’s a blue-collar work horse. I’m going to ride him like a jackass. He’s tougher than nails and winning matters to him, it really does. I wish we had some more of those guys.”
Illini coach Bruce Weber also was impressed by Green (and seriously with a last name like Green what college other than Michigan St. could he attend?)
“The kid cares,” Weber said. “He wants to win. He’ll do anything. He listens. He’s coachable. To me, it’s like (Charles) Barkley, a little bit. He’s got that big body but he’s got skills. And he’s as good a passer as anybody.
And Weber is not the first individual to compare Green to Barkley, I asked Draymond if anyone else has made that comparison, and what he thought about the analogy.
“It’s a great comparison,” Green said.
“Coach Stevens showed me clips of Charles Barkley and said this is who you can pattern your game around,” Green responded. “He’s only 6-5 but he plays 6-7, 6-8, and he can handle it and he can shoot. I’ve always had a decent handle on the ball because when I was a kid I played point guard, I was taller than everyone in the city, but I still played point guard. And I just never let it go, I kept working on my ball skills, my ball-handling. I played some point guard in high school,”
And like “Sir Charles” and/or “the Round Mound of Rebound,” “Day-Day” and/or “the Dancing Bear” (he also has two nicknames) wants to be the guy to make the critical shot with the game on the line.
“I always said I’m built for moments like that. I want to have the ball in my hands and I want to make a play,” Green said about a crucial series down the stretch of the Spartans one point win over Tennessee in the Elite 8.
But perhaps the biggest commonality between Green and the Round Mound of Rebound, is the shared gift of gab. Barkley is arguably one of the best soundbites in sports, and he’s never shy about expressing his opinion. Day-Day doesn’t quite yet have the scathing opinions or rapier wit of Barkley, but he loves talking to the media, and he’s not a cliche convention like almost all other athletes.
Besides Chuck didn’t have his sparkling public persona when he was the Dancing Bear’s age. It will come with time.