Sophomore guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn is the natural pick to fill much of the void left by Travis Trice, last season’s senior point guard and NCAA Tournament hero.
However, it appears senior guard Denzel Valentine could see time as point guard this fall as well. Valentine played significant minutes at point guard during MSU’s three-game Italy tour, and head coach Tom Izzo was impressed by what he saw.
“I thought Valentine was really good the first two games,” Izzo said. “I mean, really, really good. He made shots, he ran the point, he made passes, he made plays, he wanted to guard the best people. He really played good.”
It wasn’t a new experience for Valentine, who played point guard in high school and has looked comfortable as a passer and ball handler during his three years at MSU.
“It was different,” Valentine said about playing point guard in Italy. “I played a lot of minutes at point guard, I played wing, I played everything. Especially point. I gained a lot of experience running it and learning the team. I had to do different things and get those guys in order and call plays and bring the bring ball up the floor and turn around and guard, so it was different.”
Valentine had 21 points and five assists against the Russian Senior National Team on Aug. 28, and followed up with 23 points and five assists against the Italy Senior National Team. Valentine also had seven turnovers against Italy.
“I played point guard in high school four years,” he said. “Went off a little bit for three years. I’m pretty natural at it, I can pick things up. The biggest thing, I just have to be able to guard a point guard and be in game shape to push it the whole game.”
Valentine struggled in the third game, but Nairn picked up the slack, posting 10 points and nine assists. Nairn said he looks forward to manning the position with Valentine.
“It’s been great because he has a great feel for the game,” Nairn said. “He sees everything on the floor and it helps me a lot when we’re in the game together and just both of us are able to make plays for each other and make plays for everybody else.”