Saturday, December 4, 2021

Cleaves visits with fans

October 2, 2000
Mateen Cleaves signs autographs at Meijer, 5125 W. Saginaw Highway in Lansing, on Friday. Cleaves was in town promoting the Detroit Pistons’ exhibition game at Breslin Student Events Center on Oct. 9. —

LANSING - Mateen Cleaves just can’t get away from the Lansing area.

The former MSU star point guard signed autographs and posed for pictures with Spartan fans for an hour Friday at Meijer, 5125 W. Saginaw Highway in Lansing.

“It makes you feel special when this many people come out to see you,” Cleaves said of the line that stretched to the door.

Cleaves was a key player in the Spartans’ 2000 NCAA Championship and was drafted in the first round by the NBA’s Detroit Pistons in June.

Well-wishers brought everything from MSU championship T-shirts to Pistons pillows for Cleaves to sign.

Aside from greeting fans, Cleaves was also in town to drum up interest in his return to Breslin Student Events Center with his new team later this month.

The Pistons will take on legendary tandem John Stockton and Karl Malone and the rest of the Utah Jazz on Oct. 19 in an exhibition game at Breslin.

Cleaves said he’s looking forward to playing against Stockton, the NBA’s all-time assist leader.

“I’m living my childhood dream right now,” said Cleaves. “I grew up watching Stockton. It’ll be a thrill to play against someone you grew up watching.”

With NBA training camp officially beginning Tuesday, Cleaves said his transition from Spartan to Piston is going smoothly.

“Right now I’m just getting ready for camp to start,” Cleaves said. “I had my fun this summer, now it’s time to get serious and get ready to play.”

He also said he has a good idea of what the Pistons will ask him to do this season.

“My role really won’t change from when I was (at MSU),” Cleaves said. “I’m going to set other guys up for baskets, play defense and run the team.

“The only difference will be I probably won’t shoot as much. We have a lot of guys who are paid a lot of money to score.”

The Pistons might have an additional Spartan flair when they tip-off this season.

Former MSU forward Antonio Smith is fighting for a spot to join Cleaves on the Pistons’ roster.

Joe Dumars, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations, invited Smith to training camp and said he has as good a shot as anyone to make the squad.

Tickets are still available for the Oct. 19 Detroit Pistons exhibition game at Breslin Student Events Center. Call 432-5000 or (800) 968-2737 for more information.

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