Michigan State has been a prominent basketball program since 1898. While the team’s success has dropped off in recent years, Tom Izzo has been a legendary Spartan coach. While the team has taken some tough losses throughout the years, notably the loss to a 15 seed and the loss to North Carolina in the 2008-09 National Championship. Under Tom Izzo, MSU has not missed a tournament appearance in 20 years, the program has been to four sweet sixteens, and been to five final fours. Izzo’s best season, coaching the 1999-00 team, would yield some from its roster to the NBA. Charlie Bell and Morris Peterson would head to the NBA but Jason Richardson would end up being the real impact player at the professional level.
This list is all about the players. Some Michigan State Spartans have gone on to win championships, enjoy All Star game festivities, and win dunk contests, while other players have sunken into the D-League or found more success overseas. Michigan State is usually a very solid basketball program, even if they have not won a championship since 1999. Year after year, the team gives its opponents – in the big ten – fierce competition. While Michigan State fans cannot be too excited with what is going on right now, the program will surely rebound.
15. Made The Program Proud: Scott Skiles
Scott Skiles was the 22nd pick in the 1986 NBA draft. While it took a little bit for his career to take off, Scott ended up providing great skills for the Magic. In his rookie season, he averaged a poor 3.8 PPG and 3.5 APG. On the new expansion team, the Magic, Skiles would flourish into something people expected because of his success in college.
On the 1988-89 Magic team, Scott averaged a steady 7.7 PPG and 4.8 APG. Not only was he a solid scorer, but his predominant skills lied in passing the ball. On December 30th, 1990, Skiles would have an insane stat line of 30 assists, which would contribute to him winning the Most Improved Player Award. There’s no doubt the school was proud of him.
14. Did Not: Adreian Payne
Payne had a great career with MSU. In his senior season, he was projected to win the Wooden Award. Along with Gary Harris and Keith Appling – MSU would enjoy great regular season success.
In the 2014 NBA Draft, the Hawks took Payne 15th overall. In the summer league, he averaged a respectable 12.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG – leading people to believe his summer success would translate to NBA productiveness. Unfortunately, he has not culminated into a good player. His first year with the Hawks was a bust, as he averaged 1.7 PPG and 1.3 RPG. While he peaked in his second season with Minnesota, averaging 7.2 PPG, his third and fourth years would be similar to his rookie season. Minnesota continues to send him to the Erie Bayhawks, as he seems to be a bad rebounder and horrible scorer down low.
13. Made The Program Proud: Kevin Willis
The 7 Foot PF/C was drafted 11th overall by the Hawks in the 1984 NBA Draft. He played 10 seasons in Atlanta, two seasons in Miami, one season with the Warriors, two seasons with the Rockets, three seasons with the Raptors, one season with the Nuggets, one year back in Houston, two seasons with the Spurs, one season back in Atlanta, and FINALLY,one season with the Mavericks. SO YEAH, this guy played on a lot of teams.
Willis averaged 12.1 PPG and 8.4 RPG during his career. In 2003, he helped the Spurs win a title and in 1992 he made his only All Star game appearance. Willis was a very durable big man who played in the NBA longer than basically anyone does. Considering he played in the league at 44 years old, he was a grandpa to athletes on the court. No matter, he did well after an MSU career.
12. Did Not: Mateen Cleaves
Cleaves had an unbelievable Spartan career. He was the captain for three years and helped the team win a national championship in 2000. Cleaves was a three time All American and had his number retired.
In the 2000 NBA Draft, the Pistons took Cleaves 14th overall. His rookie season was a bust, as he averaged 5.4 PPG and 2.7 APG. After being traded to the Kings, it was apparent he was not a threat in the league. He then went to the Cavaliers and Sonics and got cut in 2004. After last playing with the Sonics in 2006, he went to the D-League and played in Fayetteville. In 2009, he last played in Bakersfield with the Jam. Beyond his basketball life, Cleaves, in 2015, was being accused of sexual assault. After being released on a $150,000 bond, Cleaves got investigated further. On December 5, 2016, all charges were dismissed.
11. Made The Program Proud: Steve Smith
Smith finished his legendary MSU career as the leading scorer in history. In his career, he averaged 18.5 PPG and 6.1 RPG. In 1990, Steve led MSU to a Big Ten Championship and to the sweet sixteen. In 2001, the program inducted him into the Hall of Fame.
Smith was the 5th pick in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat. In his rookie season, he averaged 12 points per game. In the playoffs, as a no.8 seed, he averaged 16 PPG against a highly talented Chicago Bulls team led by Jordan. Smith has four gold medals: one in the 1989 Universiade, 1999 San Juan Championship, 1994 Canada World Cup, and of course from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. In the 1994-95 season, Smith averaged a solid 20.5 PPG.
10. Did Not: Maurice Ager
Ager played for the Spartans from 2002 to 2006. In the 2004 final four, Maurice scored 24 points, but this was not enough for the dominant North Carolina team who were future Champs. After an impressive MSU career, and being selected twice to the All Big Ten 2nd team, the Mavericks took Ager 28th overall in 2006. For his rookie season, he went in and out of the D-League.
The team would eventually ship him to New Jersey and his career would go to end – pretty much. His last game would be in Minnesota. Luckily, for him at least, 2009-10 was his best season ever. He averaged 3.8 PPG!
9. Made The Program Proud: Johnny Green
We’re going back in time for this one. Johnny Green first played on the 1955-56 MSU team. He averaged 14.6 RPG and was great threat to the Big Ten down low. In the 1957-58 season, Green averaged 17.8 RPG and 18 PPG. He was named to the Second Team All American. For three years, he was named All Big Ten and had his jersey retired.
The Knicks took Green 5th overall in the 1959 NBA draft. He averaged 7 PPG and 7.8 RPG in his rookie season and averaged 10.2 PPG and 10.7 RPG in his second season. Green was a prolific rebounder who encompassed what big men needed to accomplish down low. By the end of his career, he was a 4 time All Star.
8. Did Not: Keith Appling
Appling shot well in college. In his freshman season. he shot just over 40 percent from the field. Come sophomore season, he averaged 11.6 PPG and 3.9 APG.
He went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft but joined Portland for the summer league. The Lakers would sign Keith come September, but would eventually waive him in October. Then, Appling went to the D-Fenders and Bayhawks and floated in and out of the D-League. While he has had D-League success, being a D-League All Star and D-League All Defensive team elect, his NBA success was stunted due to a lack of energy on the court. There’s still plenty of time for Appling to turn his basketball career around, but thus far, he hasn’t represented the Spartans well at the pro level.
7. Made The Program Proud: Zach Randolph
Randolph has certainly made the program proud at MSU. The Blazers took him 19th overall in the 2001 draft and he emerged as a star in the 2003-04 season. He averaged 20.1 PPG, 2 APG, and 10.5 RPG in his third season, marking his best point total thus far. In the 2006-07 season, Zach scored 23.6 PPG and 10.1 RPG. While he has changed teams, he has remained the same. Randolph is a very reliable big man who is not afraid to get physical. In 2004, the NBA named him the Most Improved Player Award. In 2010 and 2013, Randolph was selected to the All Star game. While Zach has never been a superstar athlete, Grizzlies fans regard him as one of their favorite athletes of all time.
6. Did Not: Branden Dawson
Branden Dawson was highly recruited out of High School, getting offers from Purdue Georgetown, UCLA, and of course, Michigan State. While he was a good player in college, he was known to have anger issues. He once slammed his fingers on a table and broke his hand during a film session and beat up Travis Carroll in the locker room. In his senior season. he was named All Big Ten and to the Big Ten Defensive team.
The Pelicans took Branden with the 58th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft but traded him to the Clippers on draft night. He played well in the NBA summer league and therefore earned a two year contract with the Clippers. For his rookie season, he received a lot of D-League assignments, mostly to the Erie Bayhawks. In the summer of 2016, the Clippers released Branden Dawson and he had a short stint with the Orlando Magic.
5. Made The Program Proud: Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson, along with Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson, helped MSU win the National Championship. With the 5th pick, the Warriors took a shot at Jason. Richardson became very popular in the league because of his athleticism and crafty play on the court. Against the Suns, he set the Warriors three point record in a game (8). In 2002 and 2003, Richardson won the Slam Dunk Contest.
Notably, his best season is arguably the 2005-06 season. Richardson averaged 23.2 PPG and played a whopping 38.4 minutes per game. While he was a great contributor for the Warriors, Bobcats fans loved his talents just as much. Now 36, he is retired, but ultimately regarded as one of the most athletic and unique players the game has ever seen.
4. Did Not: Deyonta Davis
Deyonta Davis played only one season at MSU. In 17 games, he played and started 16 of the Spartan regular season outings and averaged 7.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG. While this numbers are not compelling, he was a highly ranked High School forward who was primed for success (WRONG).
He was taken in the second round, 31st overall, by the Celtics. While he was supposed to be a lottery pick, Davis did not get picked until far later than anyone expected. Therefore, analysts thought teams were calling bust on him. Davis joined the Celtics for the 2016 Summer League but was assigned to D-League assignments shorty after arrival. After a tough injury to his foot, he was ruled out for games and sent to the Iowa Energy.
3. Made The Program Proud: Draymond Green
Draymond Green was the Big Ten Player of The Year in his senior season and finished his career with over 1,000 points and rebounds. Shockingly, he dropped significantly more than anyone thought in the draft. The Warriors took Draymond Green 35th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft and signed him to a 3 year contract in the summer. In his rookie season, he averaged a shy 2.9 PPG. By the 2014-15 season, Green helped lead the team to win a championship and in the 2015-16 season, he averaged 14 PPG, 7.4 APG, and 9.5 RPG. Last season, in the playoffs, Green averaged 15.4 PPG. He has been an integral part of the team’s offensive and defensive approach and is one of Steve Kerr’s greatest weapons.
2. Did Not: Kalin Lucas
Lucas played big minutes in college. In 2008, he helped lead the Spartans all the way to the National Championship, before losing to a victorious North Carolina team. In 2009, he won Big Ten Player Of The Year and was a two time First Team All Big Ten (2009, 2010).
Sadly, for him, he did not get drafted. In 2011, Olympiacos picked up his contract in the Greek Basket League. He was then released by them and picked up by a Turkish team. He then floated from team to team and is now on the Erie Bayhawks – a development league team. Sadly, Lucas has never gotten the chance to represent the Spartans at the NBA level and it looks very unlikely that he ever will.
1. Made The Program Proud: Magic Johnson
Magic was highly recruited out of high school. Ultimately, out of a lot of choices, he wound up at Michigan State. As a freshman guard, he averaged 17 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.4 APG. After realizing his unique talent, coach Jud Heathcote gave him more playing time. The Spartans reached the Elite 8, but unfortunately lost to the National Champions to be, Kentucky. The next season, Magic put on a show. He not only led MSU to a championship, but was acknowledged as the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
The Lakers took Magic 1st overall in the 1979 NBA Draft. In his rookie year, he was selected to the 1st All Rookie Team and named to the All Star team. He averaged 18 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 7.3 APG.
By the time his career, was over he was a first ballot hall of fame player. He won five championships, won three NBA Finals MVP awards, won the MVP regular season award three times, and got selected to the All Star game 12 times.
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