Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cleaves horses around

September 28, 2001
Former MSU basketball star Mateen Cleaves challenged four radio station winners to a game of horse Thursday in Okemos for a store promotion. —

Mateen Cleaves may not be a Spartan or a Detroit Piston any more, but his local fan support doesn’t seem to care.

About 30 fans watched as Cleaves played horse Thursday in front of the Okemos Sprint Store at 3544 Meridian Crossing Drive with four radio station winners.

His mother, Frances Cleaves, watched with the rest of the point guard’s fans and said his popularity shouldn’t fade just because his Michigan links have. The former MSUstandout was traded by the Pistons earlier this month to the Sacramento Kings.

“I think Mateen has that kind of enthusiasm and charisma that he’ll be popular wherever he goes,” Frances Cleaves said. “I know it’s a good team. I love that Chris Webber is there and the fans there are fantastic.”

The game was slightly modified so players would gain letters forming the word “Sprint” whenever they missed a shot.

After several impressive shots, it came down to just Cleaves and Chris Bourne, a media technology student at Lansing Community College.

Cleaves tried a plethora of hot-dog shots to outdo Bourne. He shot from behind the backboard. He drilled 360-degree lay-ups. He launched them from behind his back.

But Bourne stuck with him through all of it.

“I figured it depends on the weather,” Bourne said. “It’s a lot different shooting outside than inside.”

Both gained the letters S-P-R-I-N before Cleaves put the game away with an off-the-glass lay-up that Bourne couldn’t follow.

After the game, fans had a chance to talk to Cleaves and ask for autographs. It may have been the last such chance as he prepares for his move to California.

“I’m sad about leaving, but you’ve got to roll with the punches,” he said. “It’s the nature of the business.”

If the Kings have high expectations after their last season - when they made the playoffs - Cleaves said it shouldn’t affect him.

“There’s no pressure,” he said. “I learned to play the game one way and that’s (to play) hard.”

Sacramento offers Mateen a chance to play with some elite players, such as former Michigan standout Webber.

“All the guys I talked with said he’s the kind of guy I can play well with,” Cleaves said. “He can bring a lot to the table. He’s the kind of guy who can drive other guys to play well.”

Cleaves replaces Jason Williams, the Kings’ point guard who was traded in the off-season to the Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’ve got two different styles,” Cleaves said. “He’s flashier. I’ve just got to defend and push our guys to work hard.”

And if Frances Cleaves has anything to say about it, fans should have plenty to cheer about.

“(The Kings) are going to win the championship,” she said. “L.A. better watch out.”

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