When Carlton Valentine watches his son Denzel play for Michigan State, he watches from three perspectives.
As an MSU fan and former player: “I’m excited, because when he’s on the floor, anything can happen.”
As a coach: “I’m looking at all his mistakes, he’s getting lost off the ball sometimes on defense. Coach (Tom) Izzo and I see the same things. I told Izzo (Tuesday) night, ‘Stay on his (butt). Stay on him.’ “
As a father: “Just proud. Just happy my kid is able to do what he likes to do. I’m one of the lucky guys, man, because most guys don’t get to coach their kids.”
Even fewer get to watch their kids play against each other in a college basketball game. But that’s the opportunity tonight for Carlton and his wife, Kathy.
Their eldest son, Drew, is an Oakland University senior, and the Golden Grizzlies (2-3) will take on Denzel and the No. 15 Spartans (3-1) at 8:15 p.m. at Breslin Center.
"A once-in-a-lifetime event," said Carlton, who coached both of his sons at Lansing Sexton, winning Class B state titles the past two seasons with Denzel running the point.
"He’s going to get to see both of his sons play on different teams, playing in the hometown that he raised us in," Denzel said of his father. "So I think it’s going to be a big deal."
An old knee injury has been acting up for Drew, but he is expected to play. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward is averaging 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds for Oakland, a dangerous foe for MSU in the Spartans’ current condition.
MSU freshman guard Gary Harris is out two to three weeks with a shoulder sprain suffered in the opening seconds of Tuesday’s 74-70 win over Boise State.
Sophomore guard Travis Trice (concussion) is expected to miss his fourth straight game. The Spartans missed both badly against Boise State — needing a late surge to escape with the victory.
If Keith Appling was MSU’s Batman with his 22 points, Denzel played Robin. The 6-5 freshman had 12 points, including a key three-point play on a driving floater.
"Denzel, to his credit, made some big plays late," Izzo said.
Denzel was shaken by Harris’ injury and concerns that it might be a long-term situation. The MRI results were good news Wednesday for MSU, but Denzel and others will need to do more in Harris’ absence.
Denzel and Drew aren’t just brothers, they’re best friends. But they planned to spend much of Thanksgiving apart.
Izzo invited his players and their families to his house for the holiday, and Denzel planned to go. But the rest of the family was to stay home with Drew, who did not feel comfortable hanging out with the Spartans the day before playing them.
"If I was a player, I’d feel the same way," Carlton said. "He wants to win; they both do."