What do you think of when you hear the words “Michigan State basketball?” Do you think of one-and-done players? No. Do you think of Naismith candidates? No. Do you think of “pretty boy” jump shooting teams? No.
When I hear “Michigan State basketball,” I think of toughness. I think of guys that leave their blood, sweat, and tears on the court. I think of guys that pride themselves in defense and rebounding. I think of players that are born as winners.
Here is my all-time Spartan Defense:
|Point Guard||Travis Walton (2005-09)||Travis Walton is one of the toughest point guards to ever play at Michigan State. He didn't produce much on the offensive end of the floor but he made up for it on the defensive side. The 6'2" guard's game plan was simple: make the opposing team's best player go through hell. In my mind his best defensive performance came late in the 2006-07 season when he guarded one of the nation's top players, Wisconsin's power forward Alando Tucker, as the Spartans took down the #1 Badgers 64-55 and solidified a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Walton is Michigan State's career leader with 143 games played. He led the team in steals in 2006-07 with 42 and in 2008-09 with 56. As a three-year captain from 2006-07 to 2008-09, he was voted to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team each of those three seasons. In the 2008-09 season when the Spartans made their magical run to the National Championship game in Detroit, Walton was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Also during the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Walton was a Midwest All-Regional Team Selection.|
|Shooting Guard||Charlie Bell (1997-01)||Most of Bell's bio can be found in my combo guard list, but his defensive efforts must be recognized as well. On top of leading the 2000 National Championship Spartans with 50 steals on the year, he was also voted Michigan State's Best Defensive Player all four years. His outstanding ability to defend the perimeter was a key reason why Bell started 30 games as a true freshman.|
|Small Forward||Kelvin Torbert (2001-05)||The 6'4" high school McDonald's All-American was a team-captain in 2003-04 and 2004-05 and was also voted Michigan State's Best Defensive Player all four years as a Spartan. He started 26 games as a freshman, 34 as a sophomore, 26 as a junior, but only 2 as a senior due to the great wing play of Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown.|
|Power Forward||Aloysius Anagonye (1999-03)||As a freshman, Anagonye provided a great lift off the bench as a defensive presence in the paint during the Spartans 2000 National Championship season. As a team-captain in 2001-02 and 2002-03, the 6'8" power forward led the team in blocks with 31 as a junior and 20 as a senior. He also led the team in rebounds during those two seasons with 196 (6.3 avg) and 186 (5.3 avg), respectively. Anagonye was the recipient of the Antonio Smith Glue and Guts Award (named after former Spartan "Flintstone" Antonio Smith, 1995-99) in 2001, 2002, and 2003.|
|Center||Drew Naymick (2003-08)||The 6'10" center had absolutely no offensive game, but Spartan fans need to be thankful for the presence he had on the defensive end. Naymick holds the Spartan all-time record in career blocks with 134. His career high came in February of 2008 when he recorded six rejections against Northwestern. Naymick provided depth off the bench as a sophomore during the Spartans run to the 2005 Final Four. In the 2005-06 season, Naymick started 7 games before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season but he received a medical redshirt at the end of the year. As a senior, Naymick started 23 games and helped the Spartans earn another Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.|
|Honorable Mention||Eric Snow (1991-95)||As a sophomore, junior, and senior, Snow led the team in steals with 27, 57, and 52, respectively. Along with winning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1994-95, Snow was a team-captain in Jud Heathcote's last season as Michigan State's head coach. Snow was selected in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and spent 13 seasons in the league before retiring due to torn cartilage in his knee.|
|Honorable Mention||Shannon Brown (2003-06)||Shannon Brown is remembered by Spartan fans as a freak athlete that could dunk over anyone and could stroke the three. He was also a phenomenal defender, as he led the team with 50 steals as a team-captain in 2005-06 and was a Big Ten All-Defensive Selection. More info on Shannon Brown can be found on my all-time 10 best wing players list, by clicking here.|
|Honorable Mention||Antonio Smith (1995-99)||The "Flintstone" who graduated one year too early, Smith led the team in steals with 29 in 1996-97. He led the team in rebounds as a sophomore, junior and senior with 306, 262, and 319, respectively. Like Walton, Smith was a three-year captain from 1996-97 to 1998-99. He even has an award named after him that is given out after each season: The Antonio Smith Glue and Guts Award.|
Any other great Spartan defenders that should be noted? Leave a comment and answer the poll question.
Also, be sure to check out the rest of the Best of Michigan State Basketball series: