February 16, 2011

Greene breaks the mold

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A team's top scorer often is described the same way--he's loud,
he's arrogant, he demands the ball too much.

That's not the case with Kent State's leading scorer Justin Greene.

Greene has a much calmer demeanor. He's quiet and subtle, and rarely
talks trash or showboats, despite averaging 16.1 points per game and being
the source of many headaches for opposing coaches who try to slow him down.

"I've never been a cocky player. I've just always been humble," Greene
said. "I wasn't that good as a younger player and have gotten better
as I have gotten older. It's being humble and taking what I can from
my coaches and teammates."

Throughout his three years at KSU, he's evolved from an afterthought
to possibly the best player in the Mid-American Conference.

After averaging 2.2 points per game as a freshman, Greene burst onto the scene
the following year. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in 2009-10,
and was the only player in the country to increase his numbers by more than
10 points, five rebounds and an assist per game.

This season, Greene's averages of 16.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.42
blocked shots per game are good enough for fifth, third and fifth in the MAC
respectively, making him the only player to rank in the top-5 in all three

Not bad, considering before this season Greene had never been the first scoring
option on a team in his life and has had to adapt to his new role as top dog.

"He's done a really good job [with being the number one guy] lately," KSU
head coach Geno Ford said. "The thing you have to impress on him is being
consistent and not predictable. You have to be able to catch the ball and find
the open guy one time, then split the double team the next time down the floor,
then go through people and draw a foul. You can't predetermine what you're
going to do, because that's how teams take you out of the game."

As the focal point of attention, Greene has had to deal with persistent double-teams
every single night.

"It's all about handling the double-teams," he said. "I
had quite a few turnovers last year in double-teams, but our coaches have worked
on that with us a lot. Early in the season teams were collapsing on me and
making my teammates step up. The last few games they have been playing so well
I haven't had to work as hard."

For someone not used to shouldering the load, Greene has been fortunate in
that guards Michael Porrini, Rodriquez Sherman, Carlton Guyton and Randal Holt have emerged as consistent scorers over
KSU's recent winning streak.

"A reason we've become better and winning more games is because
we've had a stretch where Porrini, Rod, Guyton and Holt have dominated," Ford
said. "When you have multiple guys who are able to score, it makes Greene's
job easier because teams can't get wrapped up in what he's doing."

The Golden Flashes are rolling now, but the road has been bumpy.

Greene had to endure a two to three week stretch that saw his shooting percentages
frustratingly drop as shots routinely bounced in and out.

"That happens to every player. I wasn't going to be able to shoot
in the high 60s all season," Greene said. "Everybody has games
where they don't shoot well. I got back in the gym and got shots up.
I wasn't making shots I normally make, just needed to get in the gym."

Whether his shot is falling or not, he doesn't care how much he gets
the ball. Usually, that sentence isn't aimed at a team's leading

"Whatever I have to do for my team to win, I'll do it," Greene
said. "If that means I have to score, pass, block shots, rebound, whatever.
And if I have to do it all, I'll do it all."

Even in Kent State's victory over Eastern Michigan last week that saw
Greene and fellow MAC Player of the Year candidate Brandon Bowdry go toe-to-toe
and trade baskets for most of the game, he refused to shine the spotlight on

"I wasn't really paying attention," Greene said. "It
was a fun battle, but it wasn't me versus Bowdry, it was Kent State versus
Eastern Michigan. I was doing what I could to help my team win."

Maybe that's why he's so revered around the conference--he puts
up the numbers without the attitude, posts the production without the noise
and wins without the hoopla.

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