The following is a story from Thursday's Journal-World special section, 'Sunflower Power,' which previews the Kansas schools and native Kansans in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Kansas does not have much of a reputation for cranking out Div. I basketball talent at a rapid pace, but this year’s NCAA Tournament features 12 players who hail from the Sunflower State.
Although that list includes a handful of walk-ons and players who never would be considered household names, one of the best known Kansans currently preparing for the Big Dance grew up in Lawrence.
Dorian Green, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound junior guard at Colorado State University, has helped lead the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2003. CSU, an 11 seed in the West regional, made the field of 68 as an at-large selection and will face Murray State (30-1) in the first round today in Louisville, Ky.
Green, who graduated from Lawrence High in 2009, has been a starter for CSU since his freshman season and is the Rams’ second-leading scorer this season, with a 13.5 points-per-game average.
During his senior season at LHS, Green was by far the most talented prep player in the area. He averaged 23 points a game for the Lions and scored in double figures in every one of the Lions’ games. That stretch included eight games of 20 points or more and led many to believe that Green would take a shot at playing for the hometown Jayhawks after high school.
Despite drawing interest from KU as a preferred walk-on, that never came close to happening.
“I don’t know if I necessarily gave it much of a thought,” Green said. “Choosing Colorado State, I chose a place that I thought was on the rise, and we’ve kind of accomplished that. We’ve gotten better each year, and it’s a place where I thought I could come in and play, and I’ve done that. To me, it was just about making the best decision for me personally, and I don’t regret it at all. It’s just been a perfect situation and a perfect fit for me. I love it out here, and I love my teammates and my coaches. It’s been a great experience.”
Because the word “Kansas” is rarely uttered during starting lineup announcements across the country, Green said he still gets a kick out of hearing his intro just about every time.
“Definitely,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in that. There aren’t too many guys from Kansas who are out there playing college basketball, and my hometown and Lawrence High and all of that is something I’m still very proud of.”
In many ways, Green credits that type of pride for the success of this year’s Colorado State squad, which finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference with a league mark of 8-6 and a 20-11 overall record.
“That’s kind of our whole team,” Green said. “We have me, and we have four guys from Nebraska, and we just have a collective group of guys that felt like they were under-recruited, and that’s our little edge.”
Even fifth-year CSU coach Tim Miles carries with him a hint of that “little guy who gets no respect” mantra. Miles, who previously spent six seasons as the head coach at North Dakota State (2002-07), hails from Doland, S.D., and attended college at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
Of course, talent has played a role in the Rams’ run as well. And a good chunk of their talent comes from Green, who is the trigger man for the Rams’ offense. Green shot 49 percent from the floor this season, including 43 percent (52-for-120) from three-point range. He also shot 83 percent from the free-throw line and was second on the team in both assists (78) and steals (27) while playing a team-best 34 minutes per game.
Now the Rams can focus on taking the next step.
“We’ve always said we want to get to the NCAA Tournament and win when we get there,” Green said. “That’s the goal.”