After playing in 136 games in four years at nearby Oakland University, Michigan State graduate manager Drew Valentine will reunite with his old team on Saturday, when the No. 5 injury-riddled Spartans (7-1) take on the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2-8).
Tip off is scheduled for 4:00 PM ET at the Palace of Auburn Hills and will be televised on ESPN2.
For Valentine, looking to gain experience to become a coach somewhere down the road, he came to the MSU Basketball team in the fall after graduating from Oakland, where he averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a senior last year, now joining his brother, Denzel, a sophomore guard for the Spartans who currently averages 7.5 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds for the team.
Denzel (45) and Drew (15) had the opportunity to play each other last year at the Breslin Center. (Photo credit- Al Goldis/AP)
It’s the first time the Spartans and Grizzlies are meeting since last year, when the Valentine brothers had the opportunity to play each other, with Denzel’s Spartans playing to a 70-52 victory at home.
“It’s a pretty cool dynamic,” Drew Valentine said of what it’s going to be like being on the opposite sideline of his old team. “I know both teams and guys on both teams so I’m just excited. When I’m there, I’m just going to be happy that some of the guys that I’ve known for a while and I’ve seen work pretty hard are actually living out their dreams so it will be a surreal moment for me.”
And as for the guy on the Oakland side who could potentially cause major problems for the Spartans on Saturday, look no further than senior shooting guard Travis Bader.
The 6-foot-5 volume shooter from Okemos, Mich. can knock down shots from all over the floor and currently stands just 60 3-pointers shy of J.J. Redick’s all-time collegiate record of 457 threes. If Bader keeps at his current pace of knocking down four a game, he should get the record some time in mid-February.
“Crazy,” Drew said. “Travis was a guy who was a preferred walk on…Seeing how far he’s come is really a testament to the hard work that he put in.”
Other people part of the MSU Basketball team also can attest to how much Bader has improved, like Michigan State senior walk-on Dan Chapman, who went to high school with Bader at Okemos.
“He’s definitely lights out,” Chapman said of Bader’s shooting ability. “He was pretty good in high school too. But to see how much farther he has come since high school is amazing. He definitely put the work, put the time in. He’s almost automatic from out there now so we really got to make sure we guard him from the three point line and in.”
However, MSU senior guard Keith Appling says that they’re just going to have to stick to their normal defensive principles to contain him on Saturday.
“Everyone is on this level for a reason,” Appling said. “It’s tough to say we’re going to shut him down and hold him scoreless but we’re going to just try to follow our defensive game plan and limit him to less good looks than he’s used to seeing.”
Spartan Injury Update
Another thing that could give the Spartans some troubles on Saturday is all the injuries and illnesses they’ve been having as of late. They are as follows.
Matt Costello- out 2-3 weeks with mononucleosis.
Gary Harris- lingering ankle sprain had his foot in a cast this week but could play this Saturday.
Keith Appling- hip is sore after hard tumble to the floor against North Carolina but says a sprained shooting wrist hurts pretty bad. Will play Saturday.
Adreian Payne- says plantar fasciitis is improving and the cramping against North Carolina was due to not drinking enough water. Will play Saturday.
Nevertheless, a week of no basketball games certainly could have worked in Michigan State’s favor. The opportunity to both to heal up some injuries and take care of their final exams this week definitely should give them the advantage when they take the floor Saturday afternoon against the Grizzlies.