Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 3, 2012
The future looked so bright for Michigan State center Derrick Nix. Now, it?s murky. Nix was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with operating a vehicle with the presence of drugs and marijuana possession.
"Based on the information we have received, Derrick Nix has been suspended indefinitely from our basketball team, and his future with our program is uncertain," coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "He made an irresponsible decision that has put his future with our program in serious jeopardy."
This is a bad way for Michigan State to punctuate a 29-8 season. The program already was reeling from a Sweet 16 loss to No. 4 Louisville that prematurely ended what many felt would be a Final Four run for the No. 1-seeded Spartans who were coming off Izzo?s seventh Big Ten title.
Izzo was planning on Nix being a centerpiece of next year?s team. The 6-9 junior made great strides this season, entering the campaign in the best shape of his career, trimming from 340 pounds to the 270-range and averaging 8.1 points. Nix was a load in the paint who could run the floor and often was a mismatch. His future looked limitless.
Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton are departing, but the Spartans were welcoming back the likes of point guard Keith Appling, guard Travis Trice, swingman Branden Dawson and center Adreian Payne. Also, a touted recruiting class is primed to land in East Lansing, led by McDonald?s All-American Gary Harris.
But Nix may not be part of the team. If he doesn?t return for his senior year, it likely means fellow big man Payne will have to carry a big load after averaging 7.1 points this season and making 36 starts as a sophomore.
Yes, the Spartans still figure to be good in 2012-13 if Nix doesn?t return. But they certainly would be better with him in a Big Ten race that may see every team chasing Indiana.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.