March 2, 2008
Video: Neitzel, Naymick savor final victory at Breslin
EAST LANSING - Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick will be remembered for very different things when their careers at Michigan State come to a close.
But Michigan State's all-time leading shot-blocker and one of the school's most prolific scorers were feeling similar emotions when they took turns kneeling at center court and kissing the "S" following the tradition of begun by Spartan great Shawn Respert on senior day in 1995.
"It represents all the hard work, all of the sweat, all of the blood that has gone into this," said Naymick of kissing the "S". "This has been what I do; this has been my life the last five years. It represents all of the work that has gone into that. It represents respect for the program and it represents all of the guys who have come through the program before more and have done the same thing. Hurdle after hurdle, they've gone through adverse situations and they've made it through and they've become better men for it."
Added Neitzel: "It was unbelievable. You start thinking of all of the great players that came before you. And then you look at your career and you can say that you are now one of them. You are going to be talked about in years to come and people will say, 'when Drew was here, we did this and this.' To end my career that way, that is all I asked of my teammates before the game is just to get that lead up so I could kiss that "S." It is something I'll never forget, the whole game was unbelievable, the crowd, everything was unbelievable."
With the win Naymick and Neitzel become the first Spartan Class since 2001 to go through an entire season undefeated on their home court. Michigan State is 17-0 at the Breslin Center in 2007-2008.
"I am so blessed to have the opportunity to play for a university like this," explained Neitzel, "and in a program as elite as this one. I have so many memories and I have learned so much throughout my career. The way it ended, I wouldn't change it for anything."
Neitzel went to the bench after driving and scoring on a lay-up to give his Spartans a hundred points for the first time this year. Naymick registered a blocked shot in his final minute, a fitting way to end a final home game for the school's all-time blocked shots leader.
"It was perfect," said Naymick of his final game at Breslin Center, "I wouldn't make Disney movie parallels, but Drew got that lay-up to put us over a 100 and it was a very solid defensive performance on DJ White for the most part. And then I got that block, which is what I do, so it was perfect."
Naymick's block was a fitting end. It came after the fifth-year senior picked up his fourth foul. Afterward the North Muskegon native was just thankful that his final curtain call did not come after fouling out.
"After I picked up the fourth foul, Drew told me that I better not foul out of the game," recalled Naymick. "I was thinking the same thing. I didn't play too many minutes in the second half because of some defensive mistakes. But when I got in there in the second half, the ending was fitting."
Naymick is one of the few players to be able bang physically with White in the Big Ten. The Hoosier senior scored just 14 points on 5 of 15 shooting due largely to the defensive play of Naymick and teammates Goran Suton and Marquise Gray.
Neitzel's driving lay-up gave him 17 points for the game. Walking to the bench for the final time at Breslin Center was emotional.
"You watch guys before you and you kind of wait your turn," said Neitzel. "When you are in those shoes it is emotional. When I got to the gym today, I was feeling a million different ways, happy, sad, a million different feelings. Even during the game, it got hard."
It was also emotional getting a hug from Izzo as he took a seat.
"He said that he was proud of me," said Neitzel. "Being a college athlete there are a lot of ups and downs. The thing that shows your character is how you bounce back from those ups and downs. This year has been a little bit of a rollercoaster for me, but I keep fighting and it is a great way to go out at the Breslin."
Both Neitzel and Naymick feel like their team took significant strides toward becoming the type of team that can make a Spartan-like run in the tournament.
"This is a huge step in the right direction," said Neitzel. "This is the right time of year where we want to turn it on and start playing our best ball and try to have everybody play to their potential. We are going to use this win in our next couple of games and try and build some momentum. We are out the Big Ten regular season but if we can get these next two. We have a couple of big road games. If we can get those, we will have a lot of momentum going into the Big Ten tournament and we could be dangerous."
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