Thursday, May 23, 2024

Hoops team displays family values

March 30, 2001

Stick around after an MSU men’s basketball game and you’ll see something like this:

After the team beats its opponent, the players retreat to postgame interviews. They shower and dress, and trickle back onto the court.

One by one, they file into the stands and hug and greet every other players’ families and friends.

Senior guard Charlie Bell hugs his mom. He hugs former Spartan Mateen Cleaves’ mom. He hugs senior forward Andre Hutson’s mom.

It’s simple. On head coach Tom Izzo’s team, the phrase “like a family” is more than a cliché - it’s a way of life.

“Being on the road a lot, we have to go out there and stick together,” Bell said. “That’s what we do. We have each other’s backs off the court, we have each other’s backs on the court. If somebody gets beat, you gotta know that there’ll be someone else there to help you.”

And the people there to help aren’t just on the court. Every MSU game is a mini-MSU reunion, as past and present families sit together in the stands to watch.

Their closeness makes each and every player a kind of honorary son to the other players’ families, Bell said.

“If I didn’t like (freshman guard) Marcus (Taylor’s) father, that’s going to make me feel the same way about Marcus,” Bell said. “That rips teams up. So everyone here is very close, from our families to even our friends.”

So the team spends a majority of its time outside of the courts and gyms eating together and going out together, whether it’s to late-night movies, parties or to Izzo’s house for dinner.

And it never gets old, senior guard Brandon Smith said.

“I’ve hung around these people every day, besides maybe a week in the summer when I go home,” Smith said. “I’m with them every day and I don’t get tired of them; I enjoy their company. I don’t hang out with too many other people.”

On the court, that bond creates the unselfish type of play Izzo demands. Instead of one player constantly shining and winning the games for the Spartans, every player contributes, freshman center Zach Randolph said.

And that makes him feel closer to this bunch of guys than any team in his past, Randolph said.

“This team is special,” he said. “There aren’t any superstars. We stick together.”

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