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February 26, 2012
Kelser had a feeling Draymond would be great
EAST LANSING - It wasn't Senior Night or Championship Night for Michigan State, but Saturday evening sure felt like Draymond Night at Breslin Center.
Draymond Green scorched Nebraska for 20 points and 10 rebounds in leading Michigan State to a 62-34 victory over the Huskers. The Spartans need just one more victory to clinch a share of the Tom Izzo's seventh Big Ten title and Green's third.
Green's 10 rebounds gave him an even 1,000 for his career. He joins Johnny Green, Greg Kelser and Antonio Smith as the only Spartans to hit four digits.
In more select company, Green became only the third player in Michigan State history to produce 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career, joining Kelser and Green.
Working as a commentator for the Big Ten Network, Kelser interviewed Green after the game, and "welcomed" him to "the club" of 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Five years earlier, in the exact same square footage of Breslin Center court, Green approached Kelser and offered a handshake after Kelser had served as commentator for Green and Saginaw High in their Class A state championship victory over Detroit Pershing.
"I've been big on Spartan history for a long time and I knew he was one of the greats for where I was coming," Green said, remembering that night with Kelser in the state finals.
What Green didn't know back then is that Kelser was equally as excited about Green's future at Michigan State.
"I remember being very thrilled that Draymond was going to become a Spartan after watching him play in high school," Kelser said following Saturday's game. "I knew that he was a terrific player then, I knew that he was a smart player and I knew that he would be an asset right away for Michigan State, and that happened.
"He has had a great career here. He has been a winner. He has gone to multiple Final Fours. He has multiple Big Ten championships. He is finishing it off just the way you would want.
"And it's very nice to see him get his 1,000th rebound because I know for a fact that takes a lot of effort, heart and determination and it's paying off for him. And if they get enough games, who knows, he may end up being number one."
RELATED: Listen to Kelser discuss Draymond Green's career and records.
Green is 93 rebounds short of breaking Kelser's school record of 1,092 boards.
Kelser packed his numbers into a career which included Michigan State's run to the Elite Eight in 1978 and the National Championship in 1979.
With freshmen ineligible to play in his day, Johnny Green hit 1,000 in scoring in rebounding in just three remarkable years at Michigan State from 1955-56 to 1958-59.
The 6-foot-5 "Jumpin'" Johnny Green was decades ahead of his time, flying to the rim to average 16.9 points and 16.4 rebounds for his career at Michigan State. He helped lead MSU to the 1957 Final Four.
Kelser was Michigan State's career leader in scoring and rebounding when he graduated in 1979.
"I said then that the scoring record might last a little while, but the rebounding record was going to last a long time," Kelser said. "It took 20 years for someone to surpass Johnny Green. I figured it would take at least that much time for someone to surpass my record."
It's been 31 years and counting since Kelser set his mark.
"Now make no mistake about it, Johnny Green is the best rebounder in this school's history," Kelser said. "I have always said that. I played way more games than he played.
"But to be able to garner the number that I was able to grab and I'm sure Draymond feels the same way, just speaks to the commitment, because you don't get 1,000 rebounds in a year or two years or three years - unless you're Johnny Green. It happens over a longer period of time and you have to be able to sustain the effort. I was proud of my achievement and I know he is proud of his."
With 1,369 career points, Green ranks No. 22 on Michigan State's all-time scoring list. He is likely to surpass Bob Chapman, Darryl Johnson and Andre Hutson, and nestle in behind No. 16 Charlie Bell and No. 15 Drew Neitzel as the school's No. 17 all-time scorer before he is done.
No one since Earvin Johnson, however, has stuffed the stat sheet at Michigan State like Green, with his ability to add assists and steals on a regular basis.
Averaging 15.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, Green is on track to become the first player from a power six conference to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 rebounds in a season since Tim Duncan did it 15 years ago at Wake Forest (20.8, 14.7 and 3.2).
"Draymond has been a tremendous representative for the university, taking pride in his responsibility as a leader," said Kelser, a former Academic All-American in his own right. "He talks about this team being a young team, so he has to do the things that he does - and he is always talking, always uplifting guys out there. And if you take him off of this team, this is not a top-notch team in the conference. But with him, they are on the brink of winning this title outright."
"I would not sell this team short on anything," Kelser said. "This team could get to the Final Four. There is no doubt in my mind about that, because the play defense and they rebound the basketball and they have a great coach and a great senior leader. Those are all variable assets if you are trying to get to a Final Four."
RELATED: Listen to Draymond Green discuss his connection with Kelser and The Izzone.
Green is focused for now on a third and final Big Ten title for himself. Saturday's comfortable victory in perhaps the last stress-free game of Green's career ended with Green doing a happy, skipping victory lap of hand shakes and high fives around The Izzone. Victory laps such as this are customary for MSU at the end of home games. But this one, long after his teammates had gone into the locker room, after his interview with Kelser, seemed to bring out a little wider smile than usual for Green.
"It was the last time in front of the entire Izzone," Green said.
Senior Day, a week from Sunday, will be played against Ohio State while students are on spring break.
"You have to enjoy every second of it," Green said.
Spartan fans are probably saying the same thing about relishing their remaining time with him.