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 MLive.com. “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.