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Column: Nix could use arrest to boost leadership role

April 9, 2012
Junior center Derrick Nix receives direction from head coach Tom Izzo Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio. Nix had three turnovers in the 65-61 Spartan victory over the St. Louis Billikens. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News.
Junior center Derrick Nix receives direction from head coach Tom Izzo Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio. Nix had three turnovers in the 65-61 Spartan victory over the St. Louis Billikens. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News. —
Photo by Jaclyn McNeal | and Jaclyn McNeal The State News

The recent trouble Derrick Nix got himself into with a traffic stop and drugs in the car could have a lot of people wondering what’s at stake for the MSU men’s basketball team’s future.

Although the issue will affect the junior center and his future, I’m not sure his legal troubles will change the outlook of the team too much next season.

Just a few days prior to Nix’s arrest, head coach Tom Izzo had talked about how sophomore guard Keith Appling and Nix would begin about a monthlong leadership trial to see if they were fit for captainship.

Well, Nix kind of threw himself out of the running.

But I was skeptical in the first place that he could be a leader to replace departing senior Draymond Green.

I was surprised after the loss to Louisville in Phoenix that Nix stood up and took leadership in his own hands. He had a long way to go, seeing as he’s extremely soft-spoken. Yet, he does always provide great quotes, and he does have a solid head on his shoulders, especially when it comes to basketball.

He just always seemed to lack an intangible — I couldn’t quite figure out — that would allow him to be a leader.

Appling had been more vocal in practices near the end of the season, and that seems plausible the more he slides into and accepts a solidified role on the team.

Whatever happens in terms of leadership, the team won’t replace Green.

And Nix will be back, but this could severely hamper his leadership role — or improve it. Since his near-departure at the beginning of last season, he’s become a poster boy for what hard work and dedication can do for a player.

And Izzo won’t get rid of him after one run-in. He will discipline him, but it’s not going to send him packing to Iowa State.

What it might do is change Nix’s demeanor and cause him to become stagnant.

He’ll stop putting in the extra work and improving. He could balloon back to his old weight, or stay the same.

It could, however, spur him to work even harder and become a more dominant force in the paint for the Spartans.

MSU has an extreme load of talent coming in. Although the lack of Green’s leadership could show early on, it’s going to be a more talented team next season.

If Nix stays roughly the same or regresses, the team still will have experience in junior center Adreian Payne.

Sophomore forwards Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd will be able and willing to pick up slack.

And incoming freshmen Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski are talented and college-ready front court players.

Should he fall back, or even end up off the team, MSU will have the pieces to replace him, and it will take a little more time to get adjusted to the new look of the team.

But if he comes back with a new hunger, a new look on basketball and leadership, he could vault himself to All-Big Ten and great leadership within the team of youngsters.

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Pat Evans is a basketball reporter for The State News. He can be reached at evanspa7@msu.edu.

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