He’s taken every challenge. He’s committed to defense. He’s improved at his jumper.

As of right now, LeBron James is the most effective basketball player in the world! (notice I said “effective” not the best…Kobe still has that title)

It hurts me to say this, since I am obviously one of Kobe Bryant’s biggest fans but King James is the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the first half of the season. Anyone who thinks otherwise are clearly letting their biases get in the way of reality, as well as the facts.

James continues to flirt with triple-double numbers as he is currently averaging 29.9 points per game, 7.1 assists, and 8.3 assists. His team also has the best record in the league with 43 wins and only 11 losses. Which means that “on-paper” they are the “best.” He also has the hottest sneaker in the game in the Nike Air Max LeBron 7 which keeps him fly while he continues his nightly onslaught on the entire league.

With that being said, the stage is set for James to make it back to the NBA Finals this season. Anything less than a Finals appearance should be a disappointment not only to James but to the team as well as the whole state of Ohio.

Looking back on the first half of the season, here are King James’ top-5 battles, in no particular order, of the year:

1. LeBron James vs Dwyane Wade (1/25/10)

James scored 32 points, handed out 4 assists, and grabbed 9 boards as the Cavs defeated the Heat, 92-91, on the road.

2. LeBron James vs. Brandon Roy (1/10/10)

James dropped 41 points, 8 assists, and 10 rebounds on the Blazers as the Cavs cruised to a 106-94 victory.

3. Lebron James vs Kevin Durant (1/23/10)

James scored 37 points, handed out 12 assists, and grabbed 9 boards as the Cavs beat the Thunder, 100-99, due to James’ game-winning block on Durant.

4. LeBron James vs Kobe Bryant (1/21/10)

James chipped in 37 points, 9 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists as the Cavs beat the Lakers, 93-87.


5. LeBron James vs The New York Knicks (2/6/10)

James erupted for 47 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists as the Cavs defeated the Knicks, 113-106.

James and the Cavaliers will pick back up action this Thursday when they take on Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets at home at 8 p.m. on TNT.

In just about every city or town throughout the United States of America, or even across the waters for that matter, there is always that one basketball player from the area who was great but never made it big-time.

That one player that made people’s jaws drop. That one player who could walk in the gym and you could feel the buzz. That one player who ran the town harder than Jay and Ye’. That one legend!

In Flint, Mich. there are many of those types of players, but one distinctively stands apart from the rest of the competition. His name is Cory Hightower.

In an over-the-phone interview, Hightower opened up to me in one of the most exclusive interviews that he has ever given to anyone. Not only did he clear up several speculations and rumors about what really happened during his stint in the NBA, he also reflected on his playing days and his future ambitions.

 

Eric Woodyard: Talk about your journey a little bit from how you got to the NBA. From how you started to playing basketball and everything, just tell me a little bit about that?

Cory Hightower: I didn’t start playing basketball until like the sixth grade. I couldn’t dribble or anything really at first so I kept a tennis ball with me in elementary. Then once I got to middle school, I started being able to handle the ball a little better and at first I was just a stationary jump shooter then I ended up going to Whittier (Middle School) and I ended up playing with Flint Affiliation with Mr. Munerlyn and Charlie (Bell) and all of us, (Mateen Cleaves) and all of us and I honed my skills even more. After Holmes, I finished eighth grade at Holmes, then I went to high school at Northwestern my ninth grade year.

Then I was always down there at Berston Fieldhouse with Raymond, Raymond Jones so Raymond Jones introduced me to…well actually Mt. Zion came to see me when we were playing AAU or whatever and he just thought it would be a good idea to go to prep school because I wasn’t doing that well in class. Then I left and went to Mt. Zion and I wasn’t even ranked so I came in my first year and was ranked in the top-100 in the nation and by the end of my year, I was top-5 in the nation. Then I ended up going to junior college at Indian Hills because I was coming out that year but the NBA had a lock out that year so I ended up going to Indian Hills and winning a national title there, leading the nation in scoring and winning the MVP.

EW: When you were at Mt. Zion, you played with T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) there didn’t you?

CH: Yeah, Tracy and everybody from our first nine players all went D1 or made it to the NBA.

EW: I’m going from hearsay from the streets, but a lot of people say that in high school that you were just as good, if not better than T-Mac and he went straight to the NBA from high school. Did this make you pretty confident because of the success that he had with going straight to the NBA because yall both played on the same high school team?

CH: It was no doubt that I could play in the NBA. We was going against each other everyday in practice and I knew that if he was doing it than I could do it and looking back I probably should have came out that lock out year because I still one of the top-5 players in the nation and I was on the consensus to go anywhere in the second round. I still ended up going later and ended up playing so that’s kinda my journey.

I’ve been just going overseas and stuff like that, now I’ve got an agent again so I’ve been working out again and I’m trying to get back over the water right now. I’m just waiting on the call.

EW: In high school, who do you think was your toughest competition?

CH: Over at Northern, it was (Mateen) Cleaves and them and at Southwestern it was Charlie Bell and them, this was in my ninth grade. Then once I went to prep school at the end of my tenth grade year, prep school was like college. I went from playing against 6-5 center to playing against a 7-0 center. I went from 6-2 two guards guarding me to 6-6, 6-7 guys guarding me so I think it better prepares you for college. I played against Lamar Odom, Baron Davis and all those cats. Rashard Lewis, we played against each other and the competition was a lot better.

EW: I think that’s a big deal to make it from Junior College to the NBA. Why do you think you were so special to be able to make that transition? Because that was a big transition…

CH: It’s just God-given talent and working at it. Like I said, I couldn’t even dribble the ball all the way almost until like the middle of my seventh grade year. Like I said, I kept a tennis ball with me for hand-eye coordination and I stayed dribbling and I eventually started doing drills with the tennis ball to get my handles right because I couldn’t dribble a lick. Then I started handling the ball better and that’s when everything flourished because I could already shoot the ball. Then I was only like 6-3, 6-4 going into my ninth grade year and then in about the middle of my ninth grade year I was like 6-6 so I grew some more inches and that helped too.

EW: So there has been a lot said about what really happened with everything that went down with the Lakers. Let’s get your take on everything that happened. What’s your take on the situation?

CH: Derek Fisher got hurt and Phil Jackson and them told me that they needed a true point guard so I was very upset because I had averaged like 17 and 9 out there and he would never get a point guard like that but that’s what they told me. All that crap about me not carrying bags and me arguing with Kobe and me arguing with Phil, that’s been false forever. That never happened once.

EW: That’s what I wanted to clear up because everybody has been painting a bad picture of you. They say that you’re one of the best but they paint you to be this head case but this is why I wanted to get your take on the situation. So none of that stuff about you not carrying Kobe’s bags or anything, none of that is true?

CH: None of it is true. I never had to carry Kobe’s bags, I just went and got donuts and went and got food after practice or when we were on road trip or on the plane I had to stand out there with my suit in the rain, sleet, or snow and help the people that were working there get our bags off the plane. It never was the case of me getting in trouble. It may have been an argument once or twice ever with one of my coaches my whole career. I’ve never been a head case or a problem so I mean people just talk; I don’t know where they get that stuff from.

EW: So how was that whole experience with LA, they went on to win a championship that year, and getting to meet Kobe and being able to come down there and mingle with those guys coming from Flint?

CH: Actually I had met Kobe through Adidas before. I had met Kobe with Tracy. Wherever Tracy went, because I was preparing to come out that next year, coach took me along the way. So all the media interviews and all of that stuff with Sonny Vaccaro to sign his contract with the Adidas people, I got to do that my eleventh year. Then once my senior year came, I was able to do all that but the NBA had a lock out season and I chose to go to college. So I had met Kobe through that and he had already knew who I was and once I played in the Magic Roundball Classic, he was there so he already knew me once I came to the team.

It was great though playing with no doubt the third, fourth best player ever player the game and then playing with the most dominant center ever as far as Shaq, you cant get any better than that. Those were the two best players that I ever played with in my life.

EW: I know it’s gotta be humbling, with all of the players to ever come out of Flint, to be mentioned as a legend. With everybody knowing you and when you come in gym everybody respects you. I have been at games in the Pro-Am where you have taken over games with Mateen and all those guys playing on your team. Is it humbling to be placed upon the annals of history in Flint basketball?

CH: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean to think about all of the great players that have played and for everybody to always say that I’m the best player the best player that ever came out and to hear it out of Jeff Grayer’s mouth, who is one of the best player’s to ever come out is definitely humbling. At the same time, you’re held up to a different standard when you come in the gym so sometimes you forget about that but sometimes people bring it out of you sometimes so you gotta just show them what the deal is.

EW: What was your favorite memory that you played in at the Pro-Am? Is it something that you remember that stands out?

CH: Probably Jonathan Bender when we played against them. It was between 02 and 04 and he brought his all-star team from down there and we was down like 20 but we came back in the fourth. It got chippy and we was bout to fight and everything but we came back and it was jam packed and everybody was just sitting around and I’m talking about you couldn’t even touch the walls. It was jam-packed in there. That had to be the most hyped Pro-Am game ever because we ran off like 25 unanswered points to come back and beat them and those guys was really upset. I ended up running off like 22 straight points so that was by far the best but I have so many of Pro-Am.

The games where me and Mo (Cleaves) and them linked up and we played against the Cleveland team when they brought them down here and we was down 12 and me and Mo (Cleaves) ran off about 27 straight and we came back and won that game. I just got so many memories of Pro-Am but what these people fail to realize is that just because I didn’t go to a big-time college that they seen me on TV all the time that I didn’t just do that in the Pro-Am. That was so special to me and that’s why when I got to the NBA I just wanted to let people know that I could do everything. I’m not just a regular Hooper; I could really play this game.

It’s always cool to have that streetball legacy and I don’t shy away from it so I love it.

EW: With all of the skills that you did possess, why don’t you think that you were able to stay in the NBA? Was it a lot to do timing or what? Why don’t you think you stayed in there?

CH: Honestly man it was so much stuff that I don’t even know. I, to this day, still don’t understand why I’m not in the league. I just honestly don’t understand that but the only thing I can do is give it a shot one more time because I still got all my skills. The only thing different about me right now is just getting in proper shape and staying motivated to do this again because that’s all it is. It aint as easy as people think it is to do this. It’s hard and you gotta work out continuously everyday. You gotta eat right and get the right training and get your shots up. It’s a lot of stuff to do with it. That’s the thing with me, staying motivated to do this each and everyday with playing the game that I love.

EW: Is it anything else that you want to add that I didn’t ask you about that you would like to clarify that I didn’t ask you about your life or anything like that?

CH: Nah, I don’t got nothing to clarify. Not too many people can say that they got drafted and played in the NBA man. I aint really got nothing else to clarify. People gon always talk and say things, I know the truth and none of that stuff ever happened and I don’t even know where it came from I just listen to people and some of the stuff they be saying and I’m just sick of people always coming up and asking me that and I just don’t know where that rumor started at.

*This post can also be viewed on slamonline.com!

Every city that produces basketball talent has stories of a few legendary players, who everyone was sure would make it big-time, who created buzz every time they stepped onto local courts.

This is, of course, true in Flint, but one name stands out from all the rest: Cory Hightower.

“Cory could flat out play the game of basketball,” said former Flint Northern and Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves. “He was one of them cats that I literally felt was unstoppable. Some guys you can play a certain way or bump them or push them or whatever but with him it was like either he was gonna miss the shot or make it. It was nothing that you could pretty much do and he definitely had the skill level to be an All-Star.”

It’s been nearly 10 years since Hightower sat in his cramped room along with family and friends on Pasadena Street in Flint, waiting for his name to be called in the 2000 NBA Draft: “… with the 54th pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select … Cory Hightower.”
Although his draft rights were immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft day, the 6-foot-8 guard/forward was still humbled to be in that situation.
 
“Not too many people can say that they got drafted and played in the NBA, man,” Hightower says.

There is an even smaller amount who can say they were drafted to the NBA straight out of junior college, as Hightower was. Dazzling fans for two back-to-back seasons at Indian Hills Community College (Iowa) in 1999 and 2000, Hightower’s game stood out. Not only was he able to lead his team to two straight championships, but he also was named NJCAA Tournament MVP his freshman year when he averaged 13.3 points per game. He returned his sophomore season even better, averaging 22.6 points and 5.8 boards per game, and was named a First-Team NJCAA All-American.

With all of his accomplishments, Hightower also has had his fair share of detractors, who have made him out to be a head case with a bad attitude. The urban legend in Flint is that the only reason he didn’t stay in the NBA for the Lakers is because he was unwilling to carry Kobe Bryant’s bags as a part of rookie duties and was blackballed from the league, which he totally denies.

“None of it is true,” Hightower said. “I never had to carry Kobe’s bags, I just went and got donuts and went and got food after practice, or when we were on road trips or on the plane I had to stand out there with my suit in the rain, sleet or snow and help the people that were working there get our bags off the plane. It never was the case of me getting in trouble. It may have been an argument once or twice ever with one of my coaches my whole career. I’ve never been a head case or a problem, so I mean people just talk. I don’t know where they get that stuff from.”

Despite all of the talk off the court, on the court he was one of Flint’s elite. This is why he consistently came home in the summers to showcase his skills in front of this local audience at the Flint Pro-Am league. Playing (and dominating) against professional competition like Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, Chucky Atkins, Jonathan Bender, Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph, among others, his legend quickly grew.

“I just got so many memories of Pro-Am but what these people failed to realize because I didn’t go to a big-time college (or wasn’t) on TV all the time that I didn’t just do that in the Pro-Am,” Hightower says. “That was so special to me and that’s why when I got to the NBA I just wanted to let people know that I could do everything. I’m not just a regular hooper; I could really play this game.”

What’s astounding about someone with the natural talent that Hightower possessed is that he didn’t start playing basketball seriously until the sixth grade.

By the time he reached the ninth grade, Hightower was an absolute beast. He starred as a freshman on Flint Northwestern’s varsity team alongside New Orleans Hornets forward Morris Peterson, where he matched up against some of the best competition in the city and began to distinguish himself as one of the most complete players.

“I remember being in Berston Fieldhouse and we was at the end of our practice and Stan Joplin, the assistant coach at Michigan State, was there and I told Stan, I said, ‘I want you to see something’ and I called Cory and I said ‘Cory, go to halfcourt and make a shot,’<2009>” Hightower’s former trainer Raymond Jones said. “And he said ‘Left hand or right hand?’ And I said ‘Either one!’ He shot with his left and made it and he shot with his right and made it. Stan just stood up and said, ‘I’m gone.’”

File PhotoCory Hightower during a workout with the Hornets.After the end of his freshman year, Hightower was faced with eligibility problems and with the help of Jones, he thought that it would be in his best interest to attend prep school. Hightower decided to attend Mt. Zion Christian Academy, where he played with former NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady.

Playing with McGrady, who was a year older than Hightower, he was given a blueprint of what it took to make it to the league. He studied McGry move and had similar ambitions on entering the NBA Draft after his senior year of prep basketball, but when the lockout struck in 1999 he decided to attend college. At Indian Hills he flourished and later was drafted by the Spurs but could not find a consistent home as he bounced all over the world to play professional basketball.

He spent a large amount of the 2000-01 season in the Continental Basketball Association with the Gary Steelheads. He also participated in the Charlotte Hornets’ training camp in 2001 but was released. In 2002, he returned to the CBA and played with the Steelheads and the Rockford Lightning. For the next few years, the unorthodox lefty would continue to jump around the CBA, playing for the Great Lakes Storm, Yakima Sun Kings and Michigan Mayhem. Hightower also played in Venezuela in 2004.

With his best years behind him, Hightower still plans to give the NBA one more shot.

“Honestly, man, it was so much stuff that I don’t even know,” Hightower said. “I, to this day, still don’t understand why I’m not in the league. I just honestly don’t understand that but the only thing I can do is give it a shot one more time because I still got all my skills. The only thing different about me right now is just getting in proper shape and staying motivated to do this again because that’s all it is.”

*This post can also be viewed on mlive.com!

With 12 seconds remaining, the Western Michigan University men’s basketball team trailed the Bowling Green State University Falcons, 64-63, in University Arena.

After committing a foul to get into the bonus, the Broncos applied full-court pressure as the Falcons attempted to inbound the basketball. When Bowling Green finally got the ball in bounds, the pressure was too much for their point guard and as he lost the ball it found its way into the hands of WMU senior David Kool.

Without hesitation, Kool drove inside and connected on a short jumper off the glass with 4.2 seconds left, giving him 23 points for the night while propelling his team to a one point victory.

With 3,515 fans going crazy, Kool leapt with joy into the student section after the final buzzer. For most athletes this would have been a career-capping performance, but for David Kool it was just another day at the office.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a player that wants the ball in his hands more when it comes to winning,” WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said. “If it’s time to win a basketball game, he’s got what a lot of the great ones have. He’s just a fierce competitor.”

Kool’s competitive drive began way before he stepped one foot on WMU’s campus. In high school, the 6 foot, 3 inch guard led Grand Rapids’ South Christian High School to two state championships (2003 and 2005), while becoming the school’s all-time leader in points (1,853) and Michigan’s Mr. Basketball in 2006.

Despite all of his accomplishments, many big-time collegiate coaches passed on him after he tore his ACL prior to his senior year of high school. There were also many outside chatters that he only dominated was because of his lack of competition, but in the fall of 2006, Kool officially began his college career on a quest to prove everyone wrong.

“I had no idea what it was gonna be like. I knew everybody in high school was telling me how different college is and how different the game is and it was just a learning process,” Kool said. “It took a long time and it took a lot of guys beating up on me and realizing what my role was and understanding that and then once I got that understood, it just exploded from there.”

Before everything would explode for Kool, he would once again had to overcome an injury. In his freshman year for the Brown and Gold, he severely pulled his hamstring prior to training camp during an individual workout. Instead of getting down, Kool simply fought himself into the rotation and by the season’s end, he would go on to become the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year.

The people closest to Kool are well aware that he has never been a man of excuses. This makes it easy for those close to him to console him after losses or other tough situations.

“I always just try and be there for him and he doesn’t complain about anything, ever, so when I can tell he’s getting down, I just try to keep him up and keep him positive,” Kool’s girlfriend Molly Dwyer said. “But it’s kinda easy because we’re going through the same situation and I just try to be there for him and give him my support and I try to be his No. 1 fan.”

Dwyer is also a senior at WMU who plays for the women’s basketball team. Kool and Dwyer have been dating since their freshman year and her support may have also played a huge role in Kool’s success as a Bronco.

“She knows when to say things and when I’m in a bad mood she knows to come in and try to cheer me up and then she knows when to give me to pointers too,” Kool said. “We like to listen to each other and it’s nice to have another voice that actually knows what’s going on, and I definitely try to listen to her and respect her opinion.”

Not only does he respect Dwyer’s opinion, Kool has respected the opinions of his teammates and coaches. That is why in the next three years, No. 23 would go on to become arguably the greatest player to ever put on a Bronco uniform — largely due to his work ethic.

“He works at it — the funny thing about him is that I wouldn’t consider him a great shooter but he’s a good shooter,” Hawkins said. “What he is, is a great scorer. He’s worked really hard. His work has come in different forms at different points in time in his career.”

“My freshman year when I hurt my hamstring, the strength and conditioning coach and then the trainer at the time kind of pushed me towards yoga,” Kool said. “I was skeptical at first thinking yoga’s just like a girlie thing and not wanting to do it, but it really did work and I got more flexible and it was just one of those things that I had to do to sacrifice some of the things that normal college people would do so that I can excel on the court.”

In his sophomore season, Kool was selected to the First Team All-MAC while leading the MAC in scoring in conference games (17.8 ppg). In his junior season he would get even better as he led the overall conference in scoring with 17.9 points per game, becoming the first Bronco to do so since Booker James in the 1986-87 season. He was also named to ESPN the Magazine’s Third Team Academic All-American due to his success in academics. He currently maintains a 3.40 GPA — majoring in physical education with an emphasis in teaching and coaching.

Despite all of his accomplishments, Kool still entered his senior season with even more goals: to win the MAC and to make it to the NCAA Tournament. In the process, he also broke Manny Newsome’s record to become WMU’s all-time leading scorer against Akron on Jan. 27.

“It’s pretty crazy — still when people say that, it still gives me chills up my spine and it’s just insane to think about with all of the hard work that I put in in high school and even here, it’s paid off,” Kool said. “Even though how great of a record it was, I did feel a little bit of pressure coming into the game to break it, so I think it was nice to break it so that we could move on to start talking about some team-oriented goals.”

While Kool continues to make his push to accomplish his goals, his character continues to glow as he simultaneously inspires others in the process.

“He’s one of the nicest guys that you’ll ever meet. He’s a good Christian guy so he’s not out doing stupid stuff. He’s a good leader,” said Ross MacGregor, Kool’s high school teammate. “I got a younger brother that’s 14 years old and he’s looking up to him and my brother will text him and he’ll text him right back saying good stuff to him. So he’s just a leader for kids our age and younger kids — he’s just a great role model.”

*This post can also be viewed at www.westernherald.com!

Not many current college players can say that they are their school’s all-time leading scorer before the season even ends! This is exactly what Western Michigan University’s David Kool is: WMU’s all-time leader in points.

Kool has been described by his teammate Don Lawson as a person “who doesn’t want to score all the time.” Lawson also went on to descibe him as “relaxed and kinda like an old man who never wants to do too much.”

Coming out of South Christian High School in 2006, Kool was often overlooked even though he won the Mr. Basketball trophy that year as well. Now, coaches around the state have to be kicking themselves for passing up on a player like Kool who is currently averaging 21 points even.

After an evening practice last week, I caught up with “Kool-Aid” to talk hoops, life, his future, and just about everything else…

Eric Woodyard: You’re the No. 1 scoring leader at Western Michigan University, how does that feel?

David Kool: It’s pretty crazy! Still when people say that, it still gives me chills up my spine and it’s just insane to think about with all of the hard work that I put in in high school and even here it’s paid off and it’s another thing that goes to tell you that work ethic takes you where you wanna go.

EW: Obviously when you first got here you were hurt, could you see this happening and all of this success then?

DK: I had no idea what it was gonna be like. I knew everybody in high school was telling me how different college is and how different the game is and it was just a learning process and it took a long time and it took a lot of guys beating up on me and realizing what my role was and understanding that and then once I got that understood, it just exploded from there.

EW: Your coach told me that you had to get your work ethic as far as taking care of your body better and getting into yoga and things like that, was this something that you decided to do on your own?

DK: It was little bit of both. My freshman year when I hurt my hamstring, the strength and conditioning coach and then the trainer at the time kind of pushed me towards yoga and I was skeptical at first thinking yoga’s just like a girlie thing and not wanting to do it but it really did work and I got more flexible and it was just one of those things that I had to do and I had to realize that if I wanna play all the minutes that I play to do everything that I wanna do that I need to take care of my body and I had to sacrifice some of the things that normal college people would do so that I can excel on the court.

EW: We’ve talked a lot about basketball but talk about how you’re able to be cool with everyone personally on the team because you have to take a lot of shots and you still have a good relationship with everyone regardless of your big role…

DK: I think that’s what I’m most proud of. I think my character just goes a long ways and I just try to be friends with the guys first. I didn’t come in here thinking that I was the man and I’m gonna  take all of the shots, I just try to get my teammates involved first and try to build their trust up first, on and off the court. I think it’s that much easier if you’re friends with them off the court  and then they know how hard you work and they know that the bottom line is that we all wanna win games and I think anyway that you can do that then everybody’s gonna be happy.

EW: You have a girlfriend that’s on the women’s basketball team, is that pretty tough that you guys both play basketball? How is that? Do you guys ever challenge each other in games or anything like that?

DK: (Laughs) We played a little one-on-one a little early in our careers when we were both fresh but now that we’re both seniors we’re kind of laying off that. We both come in the gym and shoot sometimes together but it’s tough on the relationship just because we both have opposite schedules so like whenever I’m away, she’s home and whenever she’s home, I’m away so it’s tough but we’re both used to it since we’ve been dating for so long now and it’s been real fun growing with her.

EW: Is she pretty supportive your skills and critiquing you and things of that nature?

DK: She is! She does a good job. She knows when to say things and when I’m in a bad mood she knows to come in and try to cheer me up and then she knows when to give me to pointers too. We like to listen to each other and it’s nice to have another voice that actually knows what’s going on and I definitely try to listen to her and respect her opinion.

EW: Back to getting that scoring crown and becoming the leader, talk about how it actually felt. I play a lot of basketball myself so I know it had to be crazy to actually know that that point was going in. It was at the free throw line right?

DK: Yeah…

EW: Just how did it feel to actually have that go down?

DK: It was a feeling that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. It was one of those things that I just happened and I knew it being at the free throw line when I hit the first one that was the one that tied it and the second one was gonna break it so going into that second shot I kind of like closed my eyes, praying that it goes in so that I could just get it over with. Even though how great of a record it was, I did feel a little bit of pressure coming into the game to break it so I think it was nice to break it so that we could move on to start talking about some team-oriented goals but it was a great feeling and after that happened, we knew we were gonna lose the game but the crowd was standing and gave me a standing ovation and it was awesome.

EW: What would you like your legacy at Western Michigan to be remembered as?

DK: I think that the main thing that I wanna be remembered as is a competitor (and) a person who puts everything out there on the floor and tries to do things the right way. I’m not gonna do everything perfectly, I’m gonna miss assignments every game, I’m gonna miss shots but just in the end just plays the game the right way and got my teammates involved, I was a team player, but then again I wanna be remembered as a winner so we got a little bit of ways to go here and I want my legacy to definitely be remembered here as a winner and a champion.

EW: How would you like to cap this season off?

DK: There’s no doubt about this season, and it’s the same that I’ve wanted every season. My goal was to come in here and get Western to the NCAA Tournament and the first three years, obviously we haven’t done that but that’s the one goal that I know me (and the other seniors) all have in mind. We want to win the MAC Tournament and then get to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise in there.

Saginaw Native, Draymond Green, leads MSU on the defensive end against Northwestern

After an emotional victory over their in-state rival, the University of Michigan, the Michigan State Spartans stepped into the Breslin Center on Saturday, January 31, 2010 as confident as ever.

With a perfect record in their conference play, 8-0, the Spartans were looking to continue their domination of the Big Ten when the Northwestern Wildcats made the trip to East Lansing, Michigan.

Pre-Game

In 12 degree weather, an African-American male stood outside of the stadium gripping a sign saying “I NEED TICKETS!” Several other fans swapped money for tickets as their was a legitimate buzz to see the Spartans dominate their next opponent on their home floor.

“I just sold my last ticket, it was courtside too,” a chunky, tall black man says to someone asking for a ticket.

Walking past the security guards and finally getting onto the hardwood in the media section, the sounds from thousands of MSU loyalists cheering from the stands quickly fill the air. While most rocked a white “Izzone” t-shirt, symbolizing the student section, others wore jerseys of past and present MSU athletes like Mateen Cleaves (No. 12), Kalin Lucas (No. 1), Raymar Morgan (No. 2), Magic Johnson (No. 33), Morris Peterson (No. 42) and several other random players.

No matter who you were, you couldn’t help but to feel the Spartan pride especially if you decided to look up into the rafters and see the two National Championship (1979 and 2000) banners swaying from left to right, complemented by several other Final Four and Big Ten championship banners.

This is Michigan State basketball! It’s about pride, toughness, and domination…

First Half

Charged up from the intensity of the crowd as well as their head coach, the Spartans came out on Tom Izzo’s 55th birthday on a mission. Although the game remained pretty close all throughout the half, MSU never lost focus. Durrell Summers led the way as he chipped in 8 points and 7 boards, including an two-handed alley-oop dunk on the opening play of the game from his teammate, Chris Allen.

As the time expired to end the half, MSU held a slim, 30-28, lead over the Wildcats.

Second Half

MSU sophomore, Delvon Roe, accumulated the ball off of a rebound as he quickly outletted the ball to his speedy point guard, Kalin Lucas, who pushed the ball up floor. Seeing his teammate on the wing, he pitched it to Chris Allen who took one dribble from the left baseline and crammed the ball into the basket for a powerful jam!

This dunk pushed the Spartans ahead, 38-31, at the 17:03 mark of the half and the Wildcats would never fully recover as the crowd was charged for the rest of the night from the great play.

“Show the replay, Show the replay,” the fans chanted as it was a delay in putting the highlight dunk on the scoreboard’s screen.

After it was finally shown, everyone yelled “OOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

The Spartans would then cruise to a 79-70 lead over Northwestern, extending their perfect conference play to 9-0. Fans of the Spartans even sung “Happy Birthday” to Izzo all in unison when the game seemed to be fully out of reach.

“Happy Birthday, Coach Izzo…Happy Birtday to you,” everyone screamed.

Kalin Lucas (No. 1)

Durrell Summer’s was MSU’s high-scorer as he finished with 24 points and 10 boards while Kalin Lucas scored 23 points and dished out four assists.

John Shurna led the way for the Wildcats with 31 points, nailing six of his 13 three-point attempts.

Post Game

Standing in the locker room in front of his locker, Kalin Lucas took questions from the media. In the midst of all of the action, I managed to squeeze in as well as ask a couple questions of my own:

Eric Woodyard: What started to change in the second half, why did you start getting to the basket so easy?

Kalin Lucas: I think as far as the first half, they was trying to key on me a lot so I had to just try to make plays and get my teammates more involved then in the second half they wasn’t worried about me. They started worrying about the team more so coach just put me in the middle and I just started making plays and I just tried to keep attacking and I just started getting some buckets.

EW: What do you feel like is so different on this team this year than last year? Why have yall been able to dominate the conference?

KL: I think the one thing we’re doing, we’re just being more aggressive. We know that teams are gonna come at us so that’s the one thing we’re trying to do is be very aggressive and keep our confidence up and just keep playing good.

*These notes can also be viewed on slamonline.com!

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