Izzo is going to make Derrick Nix 'miserable'

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
5:30
PM ET
Michigan State forward Derrick Nix was one of the 2011-12 season’s great redemption stories. Last season, Nix was out of shape, little-used, and at risk of being kicked off the team entirely. This past fall, he returned to the team in the best shape of his life -- going from a “barely-fits-into-his-jersey” 314 pounds to a much trimmer and more physically imposing 267 -- and played a key reserve forward role as the Spartans returned to the top of the college hoops landscape.

And then he screwed up. On April 3, Nix was arrested in his car in East Lansing, Mich., on charges of operating a vehicle with the presence of drugs and marijuana possession. Nix was suspended indefinitely by coach Tom Izzo, and his immediate future appeared to be in doubt.

On Thursday, after the court process began to play out -- Nix pleaded guilty to a charge of impaired driving, while the marijuana possession charge has been dropped, and he’ll receive sentencing May 11 -- Izzo called a news conference to announce Nix’s reinstatement to the team. Nix apologized to his teammates, media and fans; he was contrite and likable, as Graham Couch wrote at MLive.com:
He’s a likable guy and, by every encounter and account, a decent guy — immature enough to almost throw away his promising basketball career, humble enough to know he couldn’t avoid a week of shame.

This giant of a 21-year-old was the reason we were packed in a room at Breslin Center on Thursday. And yet he began by introducing himself.

“Good afternoon, everybody. I’m Derrick.”

Then he said what I imagine most of us were thinking, at least from his perspective:

“I just want to say it’s embarrassing to even have this press conference right now.”

Despite the embarassment, the end result was positive. Izzo gave Nix another chance, reinstated him to the team, and promised rigorous oversight to come. And given the following quote, let me be clear: I would not want to be Derrick Nix right now:
“I am going to challenge him,” Izzo said after Nix issued a public apology Thursday. “I am going to definitely make life miserable for him, because I want him to be successful.”

Yeah, I have the feeling Nix is going to be running a lot of sprints in the days, weeks and months to come. But given the alternative -- dismissal, rejection, the loss of all Nix has worked toward in the past couple of seasons, and over a really dumb but ultimately forgivable decision -- Nix will surely take it. Given the trajectory of his career, there are worse fates than wind sprints.

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