The Notorious B.I.G. Green
Derrick Nix has worked his tail off to get to this point.
At 6-9 and weighing in the vicinity of 275 pounds, future Michigan State big man Derrick Nix will probably get some of the Glen Davis look-alike comments the first time he puts on the green uniform. As a gifted center with soft hands and surprisingly nimble feet, these comparisons are obvious ones to make when forecasting the future of the top-100 recruit. Just two years ago though, Nix seemed more likely to hear comparisons being made to Jonathan Ogden than he was to anyone on a basketball court.
As a sophomore at Detroit Murray Wright High School, Nix was packing 310 pounds onto his still growing frame and while the youngster certainly showed plenty of potential as far as being a major college recruit was concerned, the consensus among scouts and coaches was the he would need to drop some serious amounts of weight before that could happen. Fast forward to the present and through a change in diet and hours spent in the gym, Nix has lost more than 30 pounds. As a result, he has become a force on the floor and has Spartan fans excited for his arrival.
“Going there will help build my character and with all of the talented players there, it will make me a better player as well,” Nix says. “Coach [Tom] Izzo and I have a great relationship; I’ve been talking to him every day now. He’s been telling me to keep losing the weight and be ready to play because I’m going to get big minutes next season.”
Not only is Nix going to see significant playing time right away, but he is going to be expected to contribute as a go-to frontcourt option as well. With the departure of center Goran Suton the Spartans lose their third leading scorer and top rebounder, a void that Nix and fellow recruit Garrick Sherman out of Kenton, Ohio will have to fill. Scoring and defense are the areas that he says he expects the focus of his role on the team to be. For Nix, playing a role to help his team succeed won’t be anything new.
During his senior season, the big center helped Pershing High School (MI) take home a Class A State Championship, but did so without being the offensive force he had been during the regular season. With Nix playing the role of facilitator by recognizing and passing out of double teams, the other talented members of the Doughboys roster were able to take the lead. In the tournament final Pershing got 49 points from guard Keith Appling – a 2010 Spartan recruit – on their way to a 90-73 win over Kalamazoo Center. Like any high school kid, Nix liked to be the one putting the ball in the hoop for his team, but recognized the value of deferring to his peers.
“It was a good experience and I had to sacrifice a lot for that as a big man,” he says. “I score a lot inside but I had to give that up in order to help us win a championship because I was getting extra attention from defenses.”
Don’t expect Nix to defer much when the ball gets entered to him on the block next season though. The freshman will easily be the thickest member of the Spartan rotation next season and there will be few Big Ten frontcourt players who can match his strength in one-on-one situations. He has said that scoring in the paint at the high school level was relatively easy for him given his size and touch, but that he isn’t taking that for granted. Nix has been up at Michigan State for three weeks already taking summer courses, but has been hard at work fine tuning his offensive game. The focus for the big man has been developing a jump hook and becoming more consistent with his mid-range jump shot.
He has continued to push himself hard in the weight room as well, determined to get stronger and lose even more weight. The beauty of a player like Nix is that after seeing and reaping the benefits of hard work, it has only motivated him to push harder in all aspects of the game and his training. This realization of his hard work and talent came to complete fruition fairly recently when Nix was named the 2009 Mr. Basketball for the state of Michigan, an honor that isn’t lost on him.
“It means a lot, not just to me, but to my team and my coaches,” Nix says. “When you’re named Mr. Basketball, your name goes down in history; it means that you’re one of the best players to come out of high school.”
In finishing nearly 100 points ahead of second place Ben Simons in the voting, Nix joins a historical list of talent big men that includes Chris Webber, Robert Traylor and former Michigan State star Paul Davis. All three players stayed within the confines of the Great Lake State to play their college ball (the former two attending the University of Michigan) and all eventually went on to professional careers in the NBA.
Certainly it is still too early to determine whether or not Nix will become to next homegrown product from this Big Ten state to etch his name into conference lore and move on to the bright lights of the League, but the center from Detroit certainly has the prerequisites to do so. All that remains now is for Nix to make his way out onto the floor of the Breslin Center for the first time come November, something that doesn’t seem likely to faze the youngster.
“I’m going to be nervous, but I’m not going to be scared,” Nix says. “I’m used to playing on the basketball court, the court doesn’t change, it’s just going to be a huge crowd.”
In the face of what Nix has already overcome to get to where he is today, is it any surprise the big man with the soft hands would answer in a manner that rings so true?