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Just The Sports: The Vastly Improved Spartan

Just The Sports

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Vastly Improved Spartan

The NCAA, in what would surely be the only intelligent move ever made by the organization, should decree that all incoming college basketball players be made to watch game film of all of Drew Neitzel's 90 games in a Michigan State uniform. Correctly done, especially for those without NBA-ready talent as freshmen, each season should serve as a building block or stepping stone in reaching the pinnacle of one's college basketball career. From the progression of Neitzel's career, he has done this as well as anyone else.

During the course of Neitzel's freshman season, he really gave no hint of the scorer he would later become. Admittedly, a lot of the reason Neitzel showed no promise of his future scoring prowess is because he only took 3.4 field goal attempts per game and struggled to connect on those few attempts with a 45.1% effective field goal percentage. Neitzel's freshman year was not a lost cause, however, due to his masterful handling of the basketball in his 16.4 minutes per game as Michigan State's point guard. He had an assist rate of 36.0, slightly more than double his turnover rate of 17.8.

In his sophomore campaign, Neitzel accomplished a number of confidence-inspiring tasks. The first set was to take more shots per game (7.1) and at the same time, improve his effective field goal percentage to 50.4%. Even though Neitzel was shouldering more of the offensive load for the Spartans, he did not let his greater offensive-mindedness affect his ballhandling. Instead, he improved his assist rate by increasing it (36.7) and improved his turnover rate by decreasing it (12.8).

Nineteen games into this, Neitzel's junior season, he has again increased his effective field goal percentage (54.7%) while taking even more shots (13.0 per game) than he did as a sophomore. Even more important, in my opinion, is that Neitzel is finally getting to the free throw line with regularity with 4.6 attempts per game. Neitzel is much too good a free throw shooter, over 90% this year, to have shied away from the free throw line for so long.

One negative change that has taken place over Neitzel's game is most likely the result of his new role as primary scorer for Michigan State as opposed to a regression of skill. As his scoring average has increased to 18.3 points per game, his assist rate has dropped down to 20.6, the lowest such mark in his career, but something for which he can no doubt be forgiven.

Any college basketball fan should keep an eye on Drew Neitzel's career until he leaves Michigan State, if for no other reason than to see if he can make any sort of improvement in his senior season.



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