Friday, March 18, 2011

Draymond Green is going to miss Kalin Lucas

Today's 78-76 loss to UCLA was a microcosm of Michigan State's season.

The Spartans dug themselves an enormous hole, finding themselves down 64-41 with just 8:30 left in the game, but as they turned their defense up, the points started to come. For a while, it looked like it was going to be another case of Tom Izzo wielding his NCAA Tournament wand, but the comeback fell short when Kalin Lucas traveled trying to get off a potentially game-winning heave.

Therein lies the NCAA Tournament's ultimate juxtaposition.

Amid the choas and excitement of the upsets and buzzer beaters that envelope the first few days, we get the untimely end of the careers of some of the sports most notable names.

And I'm not just talking about the freshmen that already have one foot in the NBA Draft's early entry pool.

I'm talking about players like Kalin Lucas.

The 2009 Big Ten player of the year was never able to recapture the magic of his sophomore season, which ended when his Spartans ran into the buzzsaw that was Tyler Hansbrough's North Carolina Tar Heels. As a junior, Lucas had an up and down season come to an end in the second round when he ruptured his achilles tendon against Maryland. Lucas never seemed to fully heel from that injury this season, as he looked a step slow and lacking the explosiveness that made him so good.

Its a shame to see such a terrific player go out in such an anti-climatic, disappointing way.

And I could probably write 1,000 words on it. But nothing that I write would be able to compare to what Draymond Green said about Lucas in the post game press conference. (If anyone has the video, please pass it along. I couldn't find it and I'm writing this at 4:00 am.)

A clearly distraught Lucas couldn't answer a question about what was going through his head during such a tough shooting night, so Green stepped in:

I know it had to be rough for him. I mean, I'm just going to answer from my perspective. I feel like he had a great career, and he hasn't had many games where he just couldn't get anything to fall. You know, they did a great job defensively on him. They pretty much keyed on him the whole entire defense, and he did a great job of still getting everybody else involved. He still had five assists and he did some great things for us and got me some open shots. It hurts me. You know, I'm a big fan of my guys reaching milestones, and the loss hurts me, but I think I'm kind of hurting because he came up four points short of 2,000. And for everything he did for this program, you know, I get to come back for another year so I can be sad about the loss later. I think I'm hurting more about him not getting them four points.
Later on, when Lucas finished answering a question about reflecting on his career, Green again jumped in:
Can I add something? I just want to add something to it. In the locker room, I think playing with Kalin has made me a much better player, just his heart, everything about him. I think when I came in as a freshman, nobody expected me to be nothing. He was one of the guys telling me, just keep on going hard, and one day he's like, just keep going hard and you're going to start feeling it. It's going to start to feel like high school all over again. You're going to do what you want to do out there on the court, and it's just going to feel like high school all over again. I think that was one of the reasons -- my freshman year things didn't go right for me. I didn't play as much as I wanted to at the beginning and things was just rocky. But he was one of the guys that just stayed there with him being one of the leaders of our team at that point. It's been great to play with him. Like I say, he's made me a better player, and I've been -- the last couple years a lot of people has labeled me as a winner, but along with that winning, he's done a lot of it for me just helping me out and pulling this team along. And like I said to him in the locker room, I want to thank him for all the great times he gave me here as a player.
I don't need to add much to that.

Its straight from the horse's mouth.

So if you are going to criticize Lucas for a subpar senior season, keep those quotes in mind. Remember the kind of effect he had on his teammates.

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