Now-former Michigan State star Derrick Nix has had a long and storied history with the Spartans’ program. On Monday, with degree in hand, the MSU graduate spoke with reporters about his evolution from a lackadaisical kid from Detroit Pershing, to a Big Ten success story.
If there’s one thing head coach Tom Izzo never did, it was give up on the 6-foot-9, 275-pound athlete, despite his numerous hang-ups during his college tenure.
In the spring of 2012, Nix was briefly suspended after an arrest for being impaired while driving under the influence of marijuana. Back then, there were many suggesting that Izzo should cut Nix from the team and sever ties to what seemed to be a young man hell-bent on trouble. To the contrary, Izzo not only kept Nix around as the sole returning senior for the 2012-13 season, but he also named him as the team’s captain; a responsibility that Nix relished.
Since his arrest and reinstatement back onto the team late last spring, Nix has been a role model for many of the team’s younger players – on and off of the court. Watching the big man grow not only in his physical game, but more-importantly, emotionally, has been something that Izzo will surely never forget.
As for Nix himself, well, hindsight may be 20/20, but overall, he’s proud of the man he became during his time at Michigan State.
“College has been good and bad for me,” Nix said. “When I first got here I just wasn’t focused. But I think as I became older and more mature, it all came together and all the things coach (Izzo) was telling me came true, about just staying in the gym and staying out of trouble, just doing everything I can to be successful and not taking shortcuts.”
In the end, Nix has no delusions of grandeur concerning his misdeeds during college. The sole senior from last year’s squad has no trouble owning up to the struggles he had on and off of the court during his final years at MSU, and coach Izzo has said that honesty endeared the young player to him all the more.
“Whether he missed a class or screwed up somewhere or didn’t go as hard as he should have, 99 percent of the time I get the answer, ‘I skipped it. I didn’t do this. I missed class. I didn’t step up on that,’” Izzo said late in the season of Nix. “He’s almost honest to a fault — what some have said about me at times, and maybe that’s why I like the kid.”
For the immediate future, Nix will likely have to head overseas and join the European league if he hopes to see some playing time, but with practice, he hopes to make it to the top of the top someday: The NBA.
“I think the better shape I get in, the more I fit in,” Nix said.
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