Derrick Nix's struggle with weight is almost as famous as Oprah's. The Michigan State center has faced questions about his physique since his college career began when he arrived on campus a doughy 318 pounds and a pre-game meal ritual consisting of Little Caesar's and a 2-liter of soda.
His size limited his mobility, and thus his playing time in his first two seasons at Michigan State, averaging only 7 or 8 minutes a game. Nix's body fat was 24% and he couldn't get up and down the floor without tiring quickly.
As you can see by the photo, he's been working on it considerably, though at times it's been a bumpy ride. Last season he was poised to play a larger role, but was disappointed in his lack of playing time and sulked and ate his way out of shape as a result. At one point he even considered transferring, but had a change of heart and apologized to Coach Izzo.
This season Derrick Nix has had his best, most determined year at Michigan State. As his weight has dropped, his role on the team has grown. He plays almost 19 minutes a game, averaging 8 points and 4 boards a contest.
Though he's made great strides, at 6'7'' and somewhere in the 270lbs, 15% body fat range, he's still not what Rick Pitino would call optimum shape. And their opponents have taken notice. Before the opening round game against LIU Brooklyn, a guard for the lowly #16 seed made waves when he called the Michigan State big men "heavyset" and suggested they would struggle to match their quickness in the post.
The jab was clearly aimed at Nix, as well as fellow center Adreian Payne, himself no featherweight. The Spartans even called a team meeting (kind of silly, in my opinion) to discuss the "disrespect".
When the Cardinals square off against the literal and figurative heavyweights of the West region tomorrow, it also will be a contrast in mentality.
Rick Pitino has been mocked for his overzealous obsession with body fat index. While he can go overboard, it's clear that being in top physical shape is, of course, an advantage on the court. But it's also a mindset. Several players have revealed that mindset at various times this season, stating their belief that conditioning is a large advantage for the Cardinals.
Russ Smith in particular said last week that this team knows all the signs, the indicators when the opponent is getting fatigued. Little things like tugging on shorts during free throws or passing the ball more to get some wind during a possession. Smith said he looks for these signs to anticipate when his man will get a little sloppy with his dribbling, and picks that moment to strike for a steal.
I recall earlier this season I listened to Michigan State leader Draymond Green (himself no featherweight) be interviewed on the Jim Rome radio show. Green spoke about many things, but told one story in particular when he called Tom Izzo to complain on behalf of the team that they were being worked too hard in practice. Izzo obliged and gave them the day off, and the team responded with a big win in the following game.
I'm not saying one approach is better, Tom Izzo obviously is a coaching legend. But I remember as he told that story thinking that never in a million years could I imagine Pitino letting up on his team like that. It's just not what he does. I think he thinks it would be cheating them somehow.
So tomorrow we'll see the contrast both in physique and mentality. If the Cards prevail, it'll partially be because they've managed to out-spartan the Spartans.
Mar 18 - Mar 25
- THE LOUISVILLE CARDINALS ARE GOING TO THE FINAL FO...
- VillenHD presents UofL-Michigan State
- Enemy Dossier: Patric Young
- Tweet of the Day
- Bulleting my way to the Elite Eight
- Quote of the Day
- Sweet 16 Postgame Presser
- CARDS UPSET MICHIGAN STATE, ADVANCE TO ELITE EIGHT...
- Michael Bush to the Bears
- Kayefseum throwing out too many loaves of bread
- The Phoenix Lights
- Wayne Blackshear's soul (food) mate
- T-Will the King
- Where is he now? Goran Suton
- VillenHD presents UofL over New Mexico
- Weak sauce
- Quote of the Day
- Five favorite moments from Saturday (not including...
- Just stop it
- Toasts of the town after New Mexico
- Michigan State it is
- Pitino's Photobombino
- HOW SWEET IT IS! LOUISVILLE BOUND FOR SWEET 16
- ▼ Mar 18 - Mar 25 (24)
- ► 2011 (758)
- ► 2010 (751)
- ► 2009 (614)
About the Bloggers
Mr. Red is also known as Timothy Johnstone. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.
Mr. Black is also known as Christopher Cunningham. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.
CliffySmalls is also known as Cliff Elliott. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.