Mateen Cleaves may not be a Spartan or a Detroit Piston any more, but his local fan support doesnt 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 guards fans and said his popularity shouldnt 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 hell be popular wherever he goes, Frances Cleaves said. I know its 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. Its 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 couldnt 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.
Im sad about leaving, but youve got to roll with the punches, he said. Its the nature of the business.
If the Kings have high expectations after their last season - when they made the playoffs - Cleaves said it shouldnt affect him.
Theres no pressure, he said. I learned to play the game one way and thats (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 hes the kind of guy I can play well with, Cleaves said. He can bring a lot to the table. Hes 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.
Weve got two different styles, Cleaves said. Hes flashier. Ive 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.