Mateen Cleaves: Freshman point guard Lourawls Nairn ‘reminds me of myself’

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By the start of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Michigan State, though a No. 4 seed, was a trendy pick to win the national championship after the Spartans won the Big Ten Tournament title, showing how good they could be at full strength.

That road to the Final Four was ended in New York by UConn in the Elite 8. Michigan State graduated Keith Appling and Adreian Payne while Gary Harris declared for the draft. Tom Izzo was busy this offseason, building for the future by landing a pair of impact — Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes — to play alongside a fiery freshman point guard, who is already working on bringing a third national title to East Lansing.

Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, the No. 62 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals, has reached out to former Michigan State standout Mateen Cleaves for advice.

“He was the first recruit to ever ask me how does it feel to win a national championship,” Cleaves told “When I was telling stories you could just see him daydreaming about him having a chance to win it all.”

“He reminds me of myself,” added Cleaves. “Because it’s just a regular open gym game, and you would think it’s the Big Ten championship or an NCAA tournament. He just plays hard, he knows one way.”

Cleaves finished his career with the Spartans as the program’s only three-time All American, was a captain for three seasons and was the Most Outstanding Player at the 2000 Final Four. It’ll be hard for anyone one to produce that sort of success, especially for someone like Nairn, a Bahamas native who turned his attention from sprinting to basketball less than seven years ago.

He’s a work in progress, needing to develop a reliable jump shot while still learning the point guard position. But he’s an energetic player, and with his background in sprinting, the 5-foot-11 floor general will be a nightmare for defenders to stay in front of. The early praise from the likes of Cleaves and Draymond Green is a good sign for a point guard Michigan State will rely on over the next four seasons.

Mateen Cleaves endangers his diet for the children

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Remember how a Bedrock restaurateur put a slab of brontosaurus ribs on Fred Flintstone’s car, causing it to tip over? Mateen Cleaves, of the national title-winning Flintstones of Michigan State, may have eaten a few of those auto-tipping gut-busters himself over the years. These days, like many of us, he’s watching what he eats more often than not.

“[The diet has] a lot of organic chicken, fish, no fried foods, but I’m going to get busy tonight. I’ll just have to work out extra tomorrow,” he told writer William E. Ketchum III.

Cleaves was willing to forego his caution for one night as he helped open a new Flint, Michigan eatery known as Freakin’ Unbelieveable Burgers. In a state as hard-hit by economic hardship as Michigan, a new employer is great news. For Cleaves, that made it easier to become involved, as did the company’s decision to work with the Flint Boys and Girls Club, a charity close to Cleaves’ heart.

As for the new restaurant’s name, there’s a bit of a story behind that:

“We couldn’t find a place with a good burger. When we did find a place with a good burger, it had a bad environment,” [owner Greg] White said. “Then, when we found a great burger in a great environment, the price was too high. … People work hard for their money, and they want to be able to go out with their family more than once a week.”

While sampling burgers from head chef Tim Zimmerman, who the owners describe as “a mad scientist” because of his inventive recipes, Skaggs’ wife described one of the burgers as “Freakin’ unbelievable.” The owners glanced at each other, and the title stuck.

If you’re ever in Flint, Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers sounds like a must-see.