Spartan Saginaw connection: Richardson raves about Green

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Draymond Green

East Lansing -- One Saginaw native made it. Another Saginaw native is making it.

Former Michigan State star Jason Richardson couldn't contain his smile when asked about the emergence of Draymond Green in the NBA.

"I'm so happy for him, man," Richardson said Saturday, before the 2000 MSU national champions were honored at Breslin Center.

"This is a guy that a lot of people doubted his whole career. They doubted him at Saginaw High, they doubted him when he was here, and they doubted him in the league.

"Now he's considered the best center in the league, at 6-6, so it's just amazing what he's doing right now."

Green was a second-round pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2012, and wasn't expected to do much beyond his time as a Spartan.

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Last season was his breakthrough, when he helped lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship, earning a five-year, $82-million contract, of which he designated $3.1 million of that in giving back to his university.

This year, Green helped lead the Warriors to a 24-0 start, before they finally lost a game.

"He won a championship there, this year he's gonna be an All-Star," said Richardson, who spent 13 years in the NBA, six at the start with the Warriors.

"I'm just so happy for him."

Another MSU star who decided to stay four years, like Green did, is getting rave reviews from the guys who came before him, too.

Denzel Valentine has led the Spartans to an 11-0 start, thanks to several standout performances, including two triple-doubles and a game in which he scored a career-high 32 points.

Mateen Cleaves, the heart and soul of the 2000 champions, called up Valentine earlier this year.

"I told him right now, he makes me proud to be a Spartan," Cleaves said. "It's been special what he's been able to do. He carries that legacy the right way. I'm not talking about the points, the assists, the rebounds. I'm talking about his demeanor, his swagger, his confidence, not cockiness, but that Michigan State confidence.

"Expect to be great every time you take the floor. That's what I see in Denzel right now."