The Michigan State Spartans open the 2013-14 season as one of the early favorites to reach the Final Four, thanks to the return of the majority of their rotation from last season’s Sweet 16 squad and the presence of head coach Tom Izzo. One key component will be sophomore guard Denzel Valentine, who averaged 5.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a freshman. Valentine’s versatility allows him to take on multiple roles within the Michigan State attack, and he’s expected to take on an even greater role with a year of experience under his belt.
And on this journey that he and his teammates hope will reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, Valentine will have some company in the form of his older brother Drew. Drew, after completing his playing career at Oakland, made the decision to begin working towards establishing a career as a coach and is a grad assistant on Coach Izzo’s staff.
Working under one of college basketball’s best coaches should benefit Drew, especially when it comes to managing aspects of the game outside of the Xs and Os.
“Drew has a great understanding of the game of basketball,” Carlton Valentine, Drew and Denzel’s father, said last month. “He still has to learn a lot about the managing of people and managing of egos and switching the roles from becoming a player to a coach. I’ve said those would be his biggest challenges moving forward of being a coach, but he has a good basketball mind. He’s got good people skills. He communicates well, and so I think coaching collegiately would be a good fit for Drew.”
A grad assistant isn’t allowed to provide instruction to the players per NCAA rules, but Drew’s presence could be an asset to the younger players given his playing experience. And as Drew takes the next step in his life he’ll be able to do so with a familiar face in Denzel nearby, which would make a deep tournament run even more special for the Valentines.