By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Former Michigan State Spartan, Marquise Gray, came close to pursuing his aspirations of playing in the National Basketball Association after he graduated from college in 2009. Gray made the Detroit Pistons’ summer-league squad and was one of the last members to be released before the season began.

He is still adamant about keeping his dream alive.

This morning he boarded a plane to Mexico for his second professional season across the waters.

Last season, Gray played in Turkey for the Gelisim Koleji and averaged 17 points and 10.7 boards per game. On Saturday, he fulfilled an obligation he made to his church family. He promised he would speak to the kids and open the gym to allow them to play board games, basketball, or anything else they wanted to do in order to keep them off the streets from 12 p.m.—4 p.m. before he took off.

The Flint Journal caught up with Gray before the event began in the basketball gymnasium at the Second Chance Church —formerly known as Stewart Elementary School— and Gray seems to be a changed man this time around.

Eric Woodyard: What exactly are you looking to accomplish out here today with the kids?

Marquise Gray: When I came home in the summer last year, I kind of made a commitment to my church family and it’s so much stuff that our young people have to deal with. It’s kind of different from when I was growing up or even maybe when (the older people) were growing up. I think the worst thing they had to worry about in their day was somebody getting stabbed or a fist fight and it’s not like that now.

For me, I realized it’s more than basketball. It’s actually using that talent that God gave me to draw people to him. But it’s all about God getting this glory, that’s it. I said that I was gonna help out any kind of way I can so when I got home I was doing like a Sunday school thing. I would like read a scripture or two, dissect it a little bit and then I would just try to get in touch with them. So I was doing that and they had stopped coming so last Sunday I announced that I was going to do this before I left.

EW: When did you become so “God-conscious?”

MG: I really wasn’t as spirit and “God-conscious” as I am now. Last year I kind of did some soul searching and found myself and realized it’s not about basketball. It’s about basketball but it’s not. The gift that I have, he’s given me that gift. Recognizing that, I have to pull people to him and it’s not even just talking about ‘you shouldn’t do this and you shouldn’t do that’ because one thing that I realized is that you make mistakes. Just because you’re God-conscious that don’t exempt you from temptation or making mistakes…you’re human. So I just want to be like a older brother to the younger guys.

I’ve always felt that it was something inside of me, it’s just something always pulling at me. Like even when I was doing wrong and dumb stuff, I would do it, but I’ve always just had something pulling at me. After a while if something keep pulling at you, you’re gonna look and then I just finally decided to take a stand.

EW: Talk about your stint with the Detroit Pistons?

MG: I was with the Pistons. I played summer-league with them and after that I was real close to being a guy that they picked up but it didn’t really work out. They didn’t really know what they wanted to do and I didn’t want to wait around so actually I started off in Isreal last year and that didn’t work out then I went to Turkey.

EW: How crazy was it for you to move out the country and play in Turkey?

MG: It was fun man. I enjoyed myself. I learned a lot of things and I just had a chance to really sit down and think “with my talent, how can I help others?” Because that’s what it’s about. You don’t get blessed so you can just hog the blessing. You get blessed so you can bless others and I had time to find myself. I could clear my mind and focus on things.

EW: What’s one thing that you didn’t expect about playing overseas?

MG: How rowdy the crowd is. The crowd is crazy! It’s been times that we’ve been on the road when I was in Turkey and the fans, they have to like call security guards and stuff because people be throwing stuff. You look up in the crowd, they got trash cans they lighting on fire. It’s just wild. It was real wild and fans talk to you. They actually cuss you out in they language.

If you’re not mentally strong you won’t last. I’m the type of player where when I see stuff like that, I’m like ‘Ok, I’m about to kill! I’m about to go in kill-mode on all y’all.’ Sometimes I lose myself on the court. I start cursing. I don’t have any friends on the court. If you’re not on my team, you’re not my friend. Brother, mother, whoever it is…I don’t have any friends on the court.

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EW: Was it kind of frustrating to not play in the NBA right after college though because of all the hype you had surrounding you in high school?

MG: It was but at the same time this is how I put it in perspective. I came out. My class in 2004 had one of the most players go to the league straight out of high school in a while. So I came out with Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson, Shaun Livingston, Rajon Rondo, Jordan Farmar. Our class was deep and I was right in the mix! I forgot what I was ranked but I was right up there.

I had the chance to go out of high school but I promised my mother that I was going to get my education. I did that so when everything kind of boiled down and I found myself and put stuff in perspective, If I would’ve went to the league out of high school yeah I would have had the money and had all that stuff but I would have been bounced around. I wouldn’t have had the chance to grow as a man and on top of that I wasn’t mature enough to handle that lifestyle because even overseas man, that “lifestyle” if you don’t handle it right will go to your head, you will start thinking you’re more than you really are, you won’t work and it will kill you. Jay-Z and Beyonce got a song called “Hollywood.” Hollywood is a drug seriously.

EW: Do you feel like you would change anything if you could do it all over again?

MG: I had the chance to grow as a man. Did I like everything that happened? No. If I could would I change some stuff? Yes, of course. But at the same time, everything that I went through made me the man that I am today. Made me to be able to sit here and talk to you like how I’m talking and that was a blessing because I’m a firm believer that God whoops us. You can either do it his way and get it done quick and fast or you can do it your way and have a long grueling process.

EW: How was it to play for Tom Izzo down at MSU for four years?

MG: It was the best time of my life. Besides the 6 a.m. practicing, the four-hour practices, the constant on the road all the time and always tired, I really had fun. I enjoyed myself and on top of that I got my degree in Social Services. I will be the guy to go check out the home and see if it’s suitable for the kids. If it wasn’t suitable, the final decision would be up to me to where as if the child would stay in home or should the child would be removed.

EW: Are you looking at potentially doing that when your hoop career is over?

MG: When I retire from ball, I’m gonna get into coaching. I still have the same passion for basketball. It’s kind of the same I have as far as growing spiritually so I know some way, some how I’m still gonna be involved with basketball somehow and with kids.

It’s times that you will just come in and you can just tell that they’re going through certain things in life. You can just tell that they’re having a hard time in their young life and I just got to let them know that it’s ok but you just have to control it and don’t let it control you.

EW: What was your favorite memory at MSU?

MG: Final four. I got two Final Fours and one Big Ten championship. I did everything I was supposed to do in my college career except win a national championship and I was a game away from that.

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EW: You still talk to your old college teammates?

MG: Oh yeah, Idong Ibok that’s my best friend. Matter of fact, he came here to visit our church in the summer. He came up here and stayed with me for a little and we just kicked it just like old times. Travis Walton, those two are my best friends. I talk to them everyday, every other day. And (Goran) Suton, we all get together down there and we go out to eat and stuff like that, it’s still like we’re there. We just don’t have to abide by their rules. (laughs).

EW: How has it been to watch the Spartans this year?

MG: They’ve been giving me a heart attack. I haven’t been on this end of the spectrum in a long time you know going to the games, sitting in the stands and it’s different because I’m not used to it. I’m used to being on the court and I’m used to being the one that’s getting yelled at in the timeout but they’re alright.

One thing that we had when we were there, we had a identity. We had four seniors that been through wars, been through struggles, been through injuries, been through losses, been through wins so it was a trinkle down affect. It started with the point guard which was Travis (Walton).

Now I feel like they don’t have that. They have seniors but they don’t have a demonstrative guy that’s gonna demand to ‘do it this way or we gonna fight.’ That’s how it was with us. Practice wasn’t right if we didn’t get into it with each other but we felt like if we’re gonna bite each other’s head off in practice, then the other team they don’t stand a chance because we don’t know them. It’s really a brotherhood. It’s a secret society and all we got is us.

EW: What about your old high school. Talk about Beecher’s program a little bit. How do you feel about them?

MG: You got to take your hat off for Courtney Hawkins. He’s done a unbelievable job of turning that whole program around. Everything from football to basketball, getting the right people in the right position to be successful. You got to take your hat off to Coach Mike Williams, two-time coach of the year and went to the Breslin Center for the championship games for like the last three years or something like that. He hasn’t really had a lot to work with so that says a lot about his coaching ability. I’m happy for him man and when I go back and talk to those guys I always tell them ‘listen, only thing that matters is winning. If you win by one or if you win by 20…it don’t matter, just win!’

EW: Why do you feel like you were fortunate enough to make it out of a tough place like Beecher?

MG: I had older brothers and I had a mother that didn’t play. And I’m the youngest out of everybody I hang with.

I used to get picked on, they used to beat me up, they wouldn’t pick me when we played basketball or whatever and I carried a ball with me everywhere I went. I used to just walk and dribble. They would take my ball go to the court and not pick me on they team and if I tried to take my ball they would beat me up but all that made me tough. It made me able to withstand stuff so my mentality when they were doing that is that ‘I’m gonna be better than all y’all.’ For a minute that’s what I was striving for, to be better than all of them.

EW: What you expect to do over in Mexico? What’s your goals?

MG: To kill! I gotta stay in kill-mode. I gotta get a contract for next year.

EW: So you just signed a one-year contract?

MG: Yeah because when you’re overseas, you really don’t want to sign more than a one-year deal unless you’re on a top team and they’re talking about 1.5 or 2 million than you will sign maybe a two-year contract but other than that you always want to keep your options open.


Powers' #20 junior Patrick Lucas-Perry dribbles past Carman-Ainsworth's #5 freshman Denzel Watts.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Powers senior guard, Patrick Lucas-Perry is not like most high school athletes.

Although this may sound a bit cliche, it’s truly the best way to describe him. He played hockey all the way up until high school. How many city athletes do you know of that have to decide whether or not to seriously pursue hockey or hoops?
PLP is the youngest of five children and is regarded one of the top guards in the state. He currently averages 17.2 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.8 steals per game for the Chargers (15-2) and looks to lead them to another Class B state championship this season.
Last weekend, PLP sat down with the Flint Journal at the Applebee’s on Hill road for a full interview on his career, his upcoming college plans, and the legacy that he hopes to leave at Powers.
Eric Woodyard: I had a chance to talk to your mom and she told me that you are a super momma’s boy. I know this can’t be true…(laughs)
Patrick Lucas-Perry: (Laughs) She let the cat out of the bag but yeah, I think my mom is someone who’s always going to be there for me and someone I can depend on. So I guess you can say I’m a little momma’s boy.
EW: You’re the baby of the family so how does that feel to have to live up to the expectations that all of your brothers and sisters set before you?
PLP: I get that question a lot. I just tell them that the pressures that I’ve had on me is just an inspiration and just a little positive and reminder of who I am and what I need to do with my life so I just take it as something that would help me through my life. It’s something that will just always be there to be pushing me.
EW: I know you won a state championship as a sophomore and was the captain of the team. Why do you think they had that much confidence in you to put you in that role?
PLP: I think a lot of teams even the Lakers with Derek Fisher and the Celtics with (Rajon) Rondo. The point guard role has a lot of purpose and a lot of meaning to help the team and really lead and be that person to take their teammates and their team to the next level. I think being a sophomore a lot of pressure was put on me but I would like to say that I just like to make my players better around me.
EW: What was your favorite year playing varsity?
PLP: The teams over these past four years have been so unique and diverse and just different type of players. I really cant put one whole season to say that it’s better than the other but I feel like the chemistry that I’ve had throughout my whole career at Powers has just been great. It’s been a great experience from the coaches and from everybody.
EW: You played other sports too but what made you want to stick just with basketball?
PLP: Yeah, actually when I was coming into high school I was either going to play hockey or basketball and I was like ‘dang, which one am I going to do?’ but I just chose basketball over football, tennis, and track because I just felt like it was just something I could do forever and it was just a passion I had.
EW: Hockey though? (laughs) Not a lot of people play hockey…
PLP: Yeah, not too many people but my parents just had me do a lot of things when I was growing up and it was just something that I just started liking over the years. Then I realized that I was pretty good at it and I started playing travel and the AA and it was just something I always thought was fun and enjoyable.
I played from when I was like five to eighth grade year actually. Actually I don’t watch a lot, I just like to play it.
EW: What are your ultimate goals this season?
PLP: All-State, I’d like to do that again. Dream Team. But right now individual awards I’m not even focused on, I’m really just focused on that state championship.
Powers’ #20 junior Patrick Lucas-Perry dribbles past Carman-Ainsworth’s #5 freshman Denzel Watts.
EW: Out of all the battles this season, what was your favorite battle this season?
PLP: I’d have to say Carman because that’s the team that we lost too. It’s that one game that I will look back two years from now or whatever and will be like ‘I wish I had that one back,’ so I will have to say Carman and Denzel (Watts).
EW: Do you think that has motivated the team?
PLP: I really think it did. I think it gave us a great learning experience, a wake up call and in my eyes something that we can just persevere through to winning the state championship.
EW: What colleges have been aggressively pursuing you the most?
PLP: I think it’s between Pennsylvania University, Harvard, Oakland, and Boston College.
EW: What would you say is your top two?
PLP: Penn and Oakland probably.
EW: How fun would it be to play with your brother, LaVal, at Oakland?

PLP: I’ve never done it before and it would be something that’s just a insurmountable, great experience all tied into one especially with Coach (Greg) Kampe there. Being a Golden Grizzlie would just be an all-around great opportunity and something that would last for a lifetime.
EW: When will you make your decision?

PLP: After the season.
EW: How would you like to be remembered at Powers? Your family all has their legacy but what do you want yours to be?
PLP: That’s a good question. I just would like to be that leader that someone is compared to. I hope to be that person and just someone that will be remembered as a great point guard and being a true point guard.
*Look out for Eric Woodyard’s full-length feature story on Patrick in tomorrow’s sports section of the Flint Journal.

JaVale McGee (34) of the Washington Wizards throws down a fastbreak jam against the Los Angeles Lakers.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — The Sprite NBA Slam Dunk Contest is right around the corner.

In arguably the most popular event of the NBA All-Star Weekend, four participants will fight for the crown of being honored as the league’s best dunker.

DeMar Derozan (Toronto Raptors), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Flint’s very own JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards were selected to take part in the action. Taking a few minutes out of his busy schedule, McGee agreed to an over-the-phone interview with the Flint Journal.

McGee talked about growing up in the city, his favorite dunk contest of all-time, and his recent popularity.

Eric Woodyard: I know you didn’t grow up your whole life here in Flint but do you still rep the city just like you’ve been here your whole life?

JaVale McGee: Yeah I definitely rep the city of Flint. I got the Flint tattoo and everything and I been there for like half my life like on and off but yeah I definitely rep it.

EW: How old were you when you moved out of Flint?

JM: I was like four then I left and came back when I was six and then I left again and came back in the seventh and eighth grade. I went to Northwestern.

EW: Where did you guys move to?

JM: We went to Chicago. We went to Detroit. We went overseas. We was everywhere.

EW: I know your mom was a star at Flint Northern (Pam McGee) and your dad was drafted into the NBA (George Montgomery). Do you feel like hooping was pretty much in your genes?

JM: Yeah definitely. My background as far as my mom is real good.

EW: So you got this big Slam Dunk contest coming up this Saturday. How excited are you?

JM: It feels good, I’m just really excited. I got some things up my sleeve that people have never seen and it should be a pretty good contest.

EW: When was the first time you dunked a basketball?

JM: I think in like eighth grade.

EW: What type of dunk was it? Was it a weak one? (laughs)

JM: It wasn’t that crazy. It was just a little weak dunk.

EW: What was your favorite NBA Dunk Contest of all-time?

JM: I think it was ’86 or ’84 with Larry Nance.

EW: I know you don’t want to reveal none of your dunks but are you taking some things from Larry Nance?

JM: I was thinking about it but I don’t think I am.

EW: Is there one particular dunk from one person that you can say is your favorite of all-time?

JM: Nah, I can’t even say it. It’s so many. It’s too many dunks out there.

EW: How cool is it to be playing with John Wall in Washington?

JM: It’s been cool, it’s a lot more exposure than it was the year before. I’m just trying to get some wins though.

EW: You’ve been getting a lot of attention since you were selected for the contest, how crazy has that been?

JM: It’s definitely fun getting the attention, it’s also hectic though. You can’t go places you went before without being heckled by everybody.

EW: Anything else you want to add...

JM: Just uh…I’m definitely repping Flint. I’m just trying to go out there and represent and win this dunk contest.

*Look out for Eric Woodyard’s full length story on McGee in tomorrow’s sports section of the Flint Journal.

Super Middeweight Andre Dirrell, right, punches Arthur Abraham in the ribs during the seventh round of the Super Six World Boxing Classic at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, March 27, 2010 in Detroit.

FLINT, Michigan — In October, top-ranked super middleweight boxing contender Andre Dirrell’s career seemed to be in jeopardy.

The Flint native was diagnosed with neurological problems and advised to take a three-month absence from the sport until his conditions improved.

Dirrell has now been cleared to fight.

He’s currently training in Florida while searching for an opponent but before he left he invited the Flint Journal into his plush home in Fenton, Mich., and offered some insight about what’s been going on since his last bout in March against Arthur Abraham. The fight ended in controversy and earned a victory by way of disqualification. Here is part two of the two-part interview.

Eric Woodyard: Do you feel like that fight against Arthur Abraham damaged your reputation at all?

Andre Dirrell: I could say so but it’s really hard to say. But in boxing you have to prove yourself.When I fought Curtis Stevens, I ran the whole fight. That was my first time fighting a short guy that was really good so I fought him the only way I knew how, and that was a setback for me and I felt like I lost more from that than I would have the Arthur Abraham fight, because like I said that was a picture perfect performance. If anything I gained fans. I’d been to California before I fought Abraham and it was just ‘there’s Andre Dirrell.’ I went to California for the Andre Ward fight when he fought Alan Green and I literally walked in that stadium and got a standing ovation so I won’t say I’ve lost anything, or I’m looked at at a lower standpoint.

I would say I’m pretty much glorified, but all I can do is push forward and keep proving myself. That’s what you have to do in boxing. If you have a setback, a true champion comes back, bounces back and makes something of it so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing, but right now who cares? I don’t care where anyone sees me because I don’t have a lot to prove in this game but I will be in the top of the crop one day.

EW: I know you were telling me about a possible fight with Lucian Bute in a few months. Are you still looking to fight him soon?

AD: Yeah! I’m really hoping that comes about. It won’t be in Canada because that’s where all his fights are held and it’s a lot of crazy stuff that goes on in foreign countries if you ask me. But he’s the new Showtime fighter now, they just signed him. He hasn’t had a fight on Showtime since they signed him. I’m on my way back, and after a warmup fight then I really really really want to get in there with Lucian Bute to definitely take his title then I go after Andre Ward. Bute is definitely in my radar, I would love to fight him and I’m sure it will soon come.

EW: What’s the timetable for that fight? How many months…

AD: Um…I’m actually looking for a warmup fight right so I would say within a seven-month timespan I’ll be chasing Bute.

EW: So your warmup fight should be within

AD: Three to four months. Yes, by late March beginning of April.

EW: Can you just talk about how it feels to be sitting out of boxing for so long? How have you been feeling about having all of that free time and not knowing if you would ever be back?  You know contemplating retirement if the injury was too severe. How was that?

AD: It’s a lot to just sit back and think. I’ve been boxing for 17 years man and that’s practically my whole life, even my childhood. I’ve been working out since I was five-years-old so you can really add another five years to that 17, but just to know that I wanna be in the game for seven more years, because I just get to sit back and look at it, it is really like this is it. It’s now or never. In that aspect it’s just me in a better mindset—  being out this long about what I have to do when I get back in the game.

My family has been great but I just want to get back in that ring, I don’t like sitting out this long. I’ve been working out on and off but the motivation is really hard in Flint, just because of the snow.  I don’t like cold weather and I plan on moving to Florida soon and when I do that I will definitely get back up on my training but this has allowed me to think a lot while I’ve been out. I’m serious to just get back in there and get back to work. People want to see me and I just don’t want to let none of my fans down, and I believe I’m doing that just by sitting out the game this long but I’m gonna get back in there and show them what I can do.

EW: What Andre Dirrell are we gonna see this time around? Will there be any changes? Are you a little more angry? Are you gonna be more aggressive? What kind of Andre will step in the ring in 2011…

AD: Just a more focused one man. A boxer has to control what he has to do —  that’s it because I believe my game is perfected. In my last performance, it was an A plus performance. I believe my game was perfected. I’m going to just be more focused and hold down what I have to do, so that’s just my main thing. Getting back, not being a crowd pleaser, working to the best of my abilites and practicing my craft, and just being the champion that I know I can be and everybody wants me to be. I’m a focused, more determined Andre Dirrell.

EW: Anything else you would like to add that I didn’t ask you?

AD: Basically you definitely can look for a more determined, more focused Andre Dirrell but I really above all want to bring Flint back and put Flint on the map. I plan on doing a lot of work with Flint. I plan on bringing a lot of summer and winter activities back to Flint as well as working with the kids, but my main focus is getting back on my game and bringing Flint and putting it back on the map, so when I go down to Florida to work I want Flint to know above all that I’m bringing that championship back for them as well as myself.

*Click here to check out Part 1 of the interview!

 

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — In March, it will be a full year since top-ranked super middleweight contender, Andre Dirrell has entered the boxing ring.

In his last bout he was nailed with a cheap shot by Arthur Abraham after he slipped in a corner and rested on one leg. The punch knocked Dirrell completely out but he still went on to win the fight by disqualification.

After that contest, Dirrell was scheduled to face his close friend and fellow 2004 U.S. Olympic teammate, Andre Ward. That fight would never happen as Dirrell was diagnosed with neurological problems following the effects of Abraham’s devastating blow. The doctors advised Dirrell to remain absent from the sport for three months until he was symptom free.

Guess what? It’s been three months and Dirrell was cleared to return back into boxing on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Last week, Dirrell invited the Flint Journal out to his plush home in Fenton to give fans an insight on his boxing plans, address the “haters,” and to set the record straight about his injury in part one of the two-part interview.

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Eric Woodyard: Can you explain the neurological problems that you were dealing with for those that may not understand?

Andre Dirrell: I lose around 15 or 16 pounds for every training camp so it’s natural for me to feel dizzy after a fight and to feel light-headed when I start turning back into my old self after I leave camp. But after the fight, after I saw the doctors, they told me I had a slight concussion, and I came home not thinking of it, just working out and I started getting light-headed, I started getting dizzy. There were times I couldn’t sleep, I would be in the gym working out and my grandfather would see a difference just from my training alone.

So when he told me to go visit the neurologist that scared me because my grandfather doesn’t care if you’re sick, hopping on one foot all that stuff during training should be gone. So, I went to the Neurologist and told him I had dizzines that wouldn’t go away, I couldn’t sleep. I told him pretty much the same thing and they put me off for three months. They put me off until I was three months symptom-free, but I feel pretty good now.

As far as other boxers having it I know (others) have slight concussions and after fights like this from being knocked out (and)  it’s unchangeable for them. They get back in the ring and they can make nothing of it, they’re whole game is changed and it affects not only their career but their lives, so me taking this time off is pretty smart for me and I’m just hoping for the best when I get back in that ring.

EW: I know it had to be a setback for you being right on the brink of fighting Andre Ward in the middle of training. Just how much of a setback was this injury for you?

AD: It was quite of a setback — it just wasn’t a big setback because again I’m just looking out for my career. That’s pretty much the only setback. When I fought Carl Froch everybody thought I won the fight. The world saw that. The world knows that I won the fight and it was a good fight for me. Moving on to Arthur Abraham I totally dominated him. It was a picture perfect perfomance until the late hit. Like one reporter said, ‘he tarnished a Picasso.’

I am on the brink of exploding. I’m right there on the verge of becoming a big-time fighter and for this to happen it is quite of a setback. It can do something to you mentally. It bothers me a little bit, but I know once I get back in that ring I’m gonna be my old self again. In March it will be a year and I’m looking forward to fighting Andre Ward sometime in the near future. So when that comes about I will be willing and ready, so it’s part of a setback because I want to be fighting. I’m a boxer that’s what I do. I really can’t wait to get back in there.

EW: We have to address the people all over the internet who think you’re dodging Andre Ward. What do you have to say to those people?

AD: I just heard it again today. Last night I saw a video on there that was quite funny and I commented back to him on Twitter like ‘that was a good one.’ People crack jokes about it, people say that ‘I’m faking.’ Haters gonna be haters but I’m loving it because. honestly, I have three to four to five times as many fans as I do haters and you got to take the good with the bad … but it just really motivates me so when I hear it, it doesn’t bother me.

Half of it makes me laugh, half of it makes me wonder but it doesn’t bother me at all. I just want to get in there and fight. One thing about boxing is that you will be criticized until you retire so I’m actually looking forward to that. Floyd Mayweather’s being critcized to this day and he’s one of the best out there period! So I’m looking forward to getting more haters like Katt Williamssays, but I can’t do nothing but feed off of it. It’s nothing but energy for me.

EW: At what point do you feel like will be the right time to take the fight with Andre Ward? Do you think it was too early?

AD: I don’t want to put any skepticism to saying that the fight was too early because people already believe that I was dodging him, but — come on man — we’re two young fighters. We’re both at the top of our career and people look to see us fight and they know ever since we’ve turned professional that people have been wanting to see us fight. They wanted to know if we can live up to the standards of bringing in a big crowd and they said that we can do that now.

The Super Six was a beautiful opportunity for me but I don’t believe that it was the right time. Unfortunately this did happen, and we would’ve had our time to shine and we would have had a great crowd but I know it could be better with both of us carrying a championship, both of us at the high rise of our career, (and) at the peak of our performance. People are going to pay to see us. It’s definitely a potential big fight and I don’t want to sell it short. Like I said I don’t want to add skepticism because if this wouldn’t have happened with Abraham then I would be fighting Andre Ward. People want to see the fight but they just won’t see it when they want to see it, but it will come. I can’t wait, I know he can’t wait and that’s definitely gonna put a stamp on who’s the best and I’m ready to get in there and show the people what’s up, but they’ll just have to wait.

britain-boxing-froch-dirrelljpgjpeg-b4c3761937d6f35d_large.JPG

EW: Do you regret joining the Super Six at all? If not, what do you feel like you gained from joining the tournament?

AD: Like I said it’s just been nothing but high hopes from the beginning. It’s lived up to my expectations from the beginning. When I first walked into the studio in New York, when I ran into all the Super Six fighter, I was sitting there and I did ask myself ‘Do I really belong in this tournament?’ because when you get under the lights and in that ring you feel it. You know when you’re put on that pedestial and I felt it there and after that first fight with Froch, I knew I belonged there. And fighting on with Abraham and gaining the exposure I got nothing but good out of it. It’s been an excellent tournament. Showtime has showed me nothing but love and if I can rewind it and do it all over again, I would definitely do it all over again minus what Abraham has done to me. So it was great exposure, this was a great tournament, the first time it’s ever been done and it’s definitely going down in history. Hopefully there can be more like it. I just love to know that we set the standards for boxing to be on a higher pedestal than what it is now.

EW: I know you have to feel like beating up Abraham. (laughs) I know you’re bitter at him man especially after all the junk he’s been talking since the fight…

AD: (laughs) Yeah. I was watching something with Abraham last night as well and he said I was a actor and stuff like that but he was definitely gearing away from the a— whooping I gave him. (laughs) You know what I’m saying? But listening to interviews after that fight, people don’t bring up the a— whooping. They don’t bring it up. It’s like it never happened because all they want to see is me and Ward’s fight. But like I said, an announcer said ‘he tarnished a Picasso.’ He knew what he was doing when he hit me. He knew I totally dominated. He knew I exposed him and I caught him for the fraud that he is. He’s a paper champion and I proved it when I put my hands on him.

The favorite in the tournament at the time was for Arthur Abraham, the point leader was Arthur Abraham. I came in and dominated him…period! He did what he had to do to get out. To cause controversy and he did just that. Froch put on a picture perfect performance against him as well, thanks to me but I am bitter. I am slightly bitter but no I’m not because he he isn’t the one to walk around and blabber and talk a lot of trash but he does have his point about me. If we ever meet again if he ever holds the belt, and if he’s worth my time, I will fight him again but he doesn’t get under my skin.

*Part two of this interview will be posted on the web tomorrow afternoon. A full-length feature story on Andre Dirrell will also headline Sunday’s Flint Journal.

 

Andre Rison Unplugged

February 8, 2011

I’m not good at predicting, I ‘m like good at almost knowing though.

You’ve got two great teams about to play. A great defense on both sides of the ball. Then you got Green Bay’s quarterback but the only thing is one quarterback has already won two Super Bowls and a MVP so Pittsburgh gets the nod on offense but I think Green Bay has the most talent on offense. Then when you look at the defensive side of the ball you got great players who have been great players for quite some time now on Pittsburgh’s defense with (Troy) Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley and those guys and (James) Harrison. They’ve been there, they’ve done it before, they’ve won it all before, so the experience really lies on Pittsburgh’s defense again so they get the check on offense and defense but if you check the Vegas lines, I think they might have Green Bay maybe with the slight edge.

They say that because how hot Aaron Rodgers has been so just because how hot he’s been all throughout the playoffs and that they played all them tough games on the road. It’s gon be nothing for those guys to go out in Dallas and play like they’ve been playing and he’s got a great cast and one of my best friends personally, which is Charles Woodson.

Also, I have great ties with the head coach (Mike McCarthy). Coach was an assistant at the Kansas City Chiefs and I actually made the Pro Bowl and he ran the scout team when I was with the Chiefs  so I used to always rag on him and tell him I was on the scout team just to stay in shape once the season started so him and I got real close. In that particular year we happened to have a good record in football you know I went to the Pro Bowl that year so I flew him and his fiance out to Hawaii to the Pro Bowl and we became best of friends while I was in Kansas City so I’m very happy and proud of him as a coach and a friend to see him get his opportunity in the Super Bowl especially this year with all the great coaches that have coached Green Bay. Just for his name to be affiliated with them is a great accomplishment and achievement.

Both teams have a lot of great tradition. The Rooney’s, they set the bar and the standards for owners and ownership. When it comes to class, they’ve always been a classy organization. I can recall one time on draft day, they were on the line calling me and half of the staff wanted me and half of the staff wanted Tim Worley but I was almost there.

I also played for the defensive coordinator of the Steel Curtains. I’ve always been a Pittsburgh fan then on top of it I go to Green Bay and win the Super Bowl in Green Bay for Green Bay so I my heart is leaning towards Green Bay.

It will be great to see a great game, nobody hurt and the best team win. On that day, Super Bowl Sunday,  I’m gonna be real with you who ever commits the least turnovers is gonna win the game. You got two guys that like to take the chances but I know a lot of people that dont really know the game inside and out really dont understand how important a center is especially going into a game of this magnitude. I know how critical a center is because he has to make all the calls and he has to take his snaps pretty much all year with the quarterback so that could come into play.

There’s a lot that could come into play. Both have great special teams but I’m also close to Greg Jennings, who’s a close friend of mine. He’s like a little brother of mine. He’s had a outstanding career. I’m very proud of him but if I had to put a thumb on it and tell you the reasons why Green Bay will win the game I would have to say it’s because of the secondary.

I think their secondary matches up better with Pittsburgh’s receivers as opposed of Pittsburgh’s defensive secondary matching up with Jennings and (Donald) Driver. Then you got the running backs coming through there like the young boy James Starks. The young boy Starks can present problems.

Green Bay has been able to run the ball on pretty much everybody. I haven’t seen nobody stop the run game because they’re good at the screen game so it’s gonna be like one of those New England/Green Bay type of games in Super Bowl XXXI.

It’s totally different than the regular season. Playoffs are different than the regular season and then NFC championship games are different from the playoff games that you played in and then the Super Bowl is different than all of them. I mean, you’re talking about a once in a lifetime chance to actually play in front of not only millions of fans but also all of your peers.

We don’t get a chance to watch each other play too much, not unless we see each other on film or we see some highlights. But you know you got everybody that’s involved in the National Football League as a player, as a past player, as alumni, everybody’s glued to that game and that’s your chance where you get to lay it all on the line, and one chance where you can change your whole football career just in that one game.

I seen Desmond Howard change the game from a special teams standpoint and become Super Bowl MVP (over) myself over Brett Favre over Reggie White. A special teams guy won it and he changed the game.

(I enjoy) the longevity of people remembering that you played in it. I can’t go no where in the country right now and when people see me or talk to me they bring up the Super Bowl. The fact that I played with Brett Favre and I caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl. I caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl, first pass of the game from Brett Favre. That right there, knowing that one day I will have to answer to God’s call in battle’s field and be in the databank of the game of football I believe that probably was the wildest thing that I’ve grasped so far from the Super Bowl.

You never forget the memories and the teammates that you played with, those are always your friends. I gotta have it 28-14, Green Bay. Outside of this, this the last prediction I got until we play Flint Beecher again.

-As told to Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal


By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Roc Nation recording artist J. Cole knows a thing or two about the college life. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a “college boy” himself. He graduated from St. John’s University Magna Cum Laude on an academic scholarship in 2007 before eventually meeting Jay-Z and becoming the first artist signed to the legend’s new record label.

J. Cole was initially shunned by Jay-Z. But with a little ambition and dedication to his craft, he stayed persistent and eventually won him over. He’s now one of hip-hop’s hottest up and coming artists. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the North Carolina native made a stop in Kalamazoo to perform for the college students at Western Michigan University in Miller Auditorium. Before his show began, J. Cole had a few things to say about performing in Michigan, pressures to succeed and working with Jay-Z.

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about how everything came about with you deciding to do a concert at Western Michigan University?

J.Cole: A tour was put together for me, and then I guess Western Michigan was interested in booking me luckily. That’s all I really know. I don’t really know the specifics because I don’t handle my bookings but I’m glad to be there. Every time I come to Michigan they show me a lot of love and hopefully this will be no different.

EW: How important do you think it is for you to tackle the college audience? Especially with your album in the works…

JC: Aw man, I think the college audience is really probably one of my most important [audiences] because I seen two artists, when I was in college, blow up like right before my eyes really, right in college and they just happened to be some of my favorite rappers. Like Kanye [West] and I think it had a lot to do with his college following. And then Lil Wayne too, because you got so many people from all around the country and they all rally around this one artist, and when they go home they spread the gossip about how good they think he is, so I think college is super duper important.

EW: Can you talk about your college experience a little bit? I know you graduated from St. John’s University, right? Do you have any wild stories?

JC: I ain’t got no crazy stories, but I had a real good time and I truly enjoyed my college experience. I wouldn’t change nothing about that. I love school and school was real fun, and it was a real good experience for me.

EW: With so many rising artists like Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa, how much of a challenge do you feel it is to separate yourself from the pack and bring something new to the table?

JC: I feel like if I just continue to be myself then the difference will show. You know, all these guys are super talented, but all our stories are different and we got different things to say so I mean, as long as I stay true to myself and not try to be like anybody else I feel like the difference between us will shine.

EW: Do you feel any pressure to make and produce hot music, especially with Jay-Z in your corner and being the first artist signed to Roc Nation?

JC: Yeah, I feel pressured just from my high expectations of myself and just the things I want from myself and out of my career, so that’s the kind of pressure I feel. You know, it’s a good pressure.

EW: How is it working with Jay-Z?

JC: Man, it’s incredible! Like sometimes I gotta pinch myself, you know what I’m saying? Then realize like if I’m sitting in a room with him and we just talking then I gotta step out of the conversation and have a out-of-body experience and just realize that I’m sitting in a room with the greatest rapper of all time arguably. So it’s an incredible experience.

EW: Is there one thing that you learned about him that really shocked you?

JC: Nothing really shocked me. It’s just funny because you can just tell he really is still who he was when he came in. Of course he’s grown so much and he’s older, but every now and then you can just see the real Brooklyn in him you know what I’m saying? You will see that side of him. Just through like, conversation or whatever, it just will come out, and he’s funny as hell to watch.

EW: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, what would you say your favorite collaboration was out of all of them?

JC: My favorite collaboration was with probably Miguel, I love the Miguel song. So yeah, probably the Miguel song from this year because it’s such a great song.

EW: How far along is your solo project? Is it still gonna be called “Cole World?”

JC: Nah, we not calling it “Cole World.” We should put the title out soon but I’m practically finished, man. I’m gonna go back there in early December for about three weeks to finish it all the way up.

EW: So you’re looking to drop it early next year?

JC: Yeah, probably like February or March and put out the single towards Thanksgiving and then we outta there.

EW: What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

JC: I would like to just be around for a long time and just be on top for a long time. Once I get to the top I don’t plan on ever letting it go. So like Jay was one of the only ones to really successfully accomplish that, and Eminem too to a degree, and Kanye helped maintain that and I just want to be like one of those guys like once I get to the top, I will never let up. That type of thing and that’s where I really wanna be five years from now.

EW: What should Western Michigan University expect from J. Cole tonight? Last year Big Sean did his thing but what is J. Cole gonna bring new to us this year?

JC: Tonight I’m not even gonna have the band so I’m taking it back to the old school J. Cole shows and performances with two turn tables and a mic so it’s a lot of real good-a– raps and I try to give my all to the crowd and really give them a lot of my personality. I think when people come to the shows, they want to do more than just rap along with your songs, they want to like really feel your personality and feel your energy and I’m gonna try to give a lot of that. So I hope they show me some love.

It’s no secret that Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook is quickly becoming one of the best young guards in the league.

The LBC native finished the 2009-2010 season with an average of 16.1 points and 8.0 dimes per game. He then followed this up in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers where he averaged 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists over 6 games. This season he showed his performance was no fluke when he gave Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 28 points and 6 assists in the season opener.

We’ve seen what he’s capable of on the court but have you always wondered what’s going through the mind of a young player just before stepping on the court to battle another great player at the same position? I caught up with Westbrook in the midst of eating a bag of popcorn in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills just before he prepared to battle Rodney Stuckey and the Detroit Pistons on Friday, October 29, 2010.

This is what goes through his mind…

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about your pre-game ritual a little bit. What do you usually do before the game?

Russell Westbook: I usually take a nap, grab something to eat and listen to music, nothing too crazy and just hang out, chill and relax.

EW: What type of music do you listen too to get you in the zone?

RW: You know what? I switch it up. It all depends, sometimes I listen to some Raggae, some Cameroonian music…yeah (laughs). Lil Wayne…

EW: I’ve never heard anybody say that before…(laughs)

RW: …some jerking, I switch it up. So it all depends on how I’m feeling that day.

EW: Do you usually get hyped up to go up against another up and coming point guard? Like tonight’s it’s Rodney Stuckey, do you try to go out and try to prove that you’re better?

RW: Not really, I just try to go out and prove that my team is better. I try to go out and put my team in the best situation to try to win the game.

EW: What were some of the things you worked on this off-season?

RW: Well in the off-season I was really busy with FIBA and USA basketball so with that it helped me become more physical and a better teammate.

EW: That first game against your Olympic teammate Derrick Rose and the Bulls was great battle! So to get back on that battling your peers, can you break it down how does it feel to compete against all these up and coming guards?

RW: It feels good! It’s a good thing for the league, it’s a lot of good guards in the league and to go against somebody who’s real good and real tough, there’s really no nights off.

By Patrick Hayes

The city of Flint has produced dozens of great college and professional basketball players. But while players like Glen Rice, Mateen Cleaves, Eric Turner, Mark Harris and Cory Hightower are always reminisced about, a forgotten name on that list is Flint Northern grad Terry Furlow.

After an under-the-radar high school career in the 1970s, Furlow ended up at Michigan State where he became a scoring machine. He went on to the NBA where he was just coming into his own before he was killed in a car accident in the offseason 30 years ago this past May.

Flint-based writer Eric Woodyard profiled Furlow in this month’s issue of SLAM Magazine, on newsstands now (Dwyane Wade in a Bulls jersey is on the cover). The story is a great look back on Furlow, giving one of Flint’s forgotten greats his due. Woodyard interviewed several people for his story, including former Spartan Greg Kelser and former Flint Journal sports columnist Dean Howe.

I asked Woodyard a few questions about his story. His responses are in italics below.

First, I know you are a Flint guy, but what specifically got you interested in telling Furlow’s story again?

Honestly, I was bugging SLAM magazine pretty much every chance I got to get a feature length story in the mag. I had been hearing about Furlow ever since I was a kid and a lot of people knew about him somewhat but they didn’t know just how great he actually was so that is what got me started. From then I did all my research and took the time to look at all old clips in the Flint Journal’s archive and over the internet and I wanted to tell his story the right way without letting the way he died influence his basketball legacy.

People around Flint always enjoy reminiscing about past generations of basketball players. Did you find it easy to find people with stories about Furlow or memories of him they wanted to share?

Yes and no. Since Furlow was not really in my generation or even close, it was kind of tough to find reliable sources. In the end I used all of my connections that I made at the Palace from covering Pistons games as well as the people in East Lansing and I got to talk to people who actually knew him personally. A lot of my family was also close to his younger siblings so getting in contact with his brothers was easy and once I talked to all of my sources for interviews they did a great job at opening up. Greg Kelser even got a bit sentimental in our interview.

How good do you think Furlow would’ve become as a NBA player had his life not been cut short?

I have never seen him actually play but from what I hear he had to opportunity to be the best. He was right on the cusp of becoming a NBA star. He was averaging 16 points per game for Utah before he died and there were even higher expectations for him the following season. In my opinion, he had the chance to become an All-Star if he had continued to get the playing time and opportunity to make plays.
 
What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned when researching this story?

I learned that Furlow wasn’t really that good in high school and that he didn’t play varsity basketball until his senior season. I also learned that he was a very silly guy and he was always the life of the party. His birthday is also two days after mine so that was pretty cool. It was great to read the chapter in Magic Johnson’s autobiography that was dedicated to him as well. To hear the great Magic talking about how he looked up to a Flintstone was priceless.

Flint’s known for great basketball talent. Where would you rank Furlow on that list among greatest Flint players?

I would have to rank him probably in the top 3. I would put Glen Rice first on the list then it would be a toss up between Furlow and maybe Eric Turner or Mateen Cleaves because of their impact on the city. Furlow’s funeral attracted basketball heavyweights like Dr. J and Magic Johnson. I don’t think any other player had that type of impact with their basketball skills.
 
I would also like to add that I think I was pretty much destined to tell Furlow’s story just because of how all of the pieces feel into place for me. I don’t think any writer could have done this story in the right fashion if they weren’t actually from Flint. It still baffles me that his jersey isn’t hanging from the rafters at MSU after all the big numbers he put up as a Spartan. The man averaged nearly 30 points per game as a senior! I hope my story can do the man some justice and bring light onto his greatness.

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

Flint's own, Mark Ingram at the podium in Atwood Stadium.

Good afternoon everybody! It’s good to be home, I will tell you that much. Me and my family, we’re real honored to be here today and we just really enjoy everybody that came out here to support us and you guys really don’t know how much we appreciate it and all of the love that you guys have been showing us and it’s greatly appreciated and I love you guys too and thank you.

And um, I wanna thank the committee that put all of this together and made this a success today because this is a special event and this is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. I’m a very blessed individual and people often wonder how I can be so humble but it’s just I know who’s in control of my life and that’s with the help of my church family and the youth choir that just sang right now. I love coming home just to be able to go to church and hear them and we’re all close. We’re not a big church but we all love each other and we worship every Sunday.

I can’t even put into words what it felt like in that month of December and January (after) winning the Heisman and the national championship. It was magical and I did in one month what most athletes dream of doing in their whole careers. I’ve celebrated in lots of places and been honored in lots of places but it’s more special to me and I feel the more (love) being honored at home and celebrating with the people that I grew up with and my family and people that live in the same city so this is real special for me today.
I’m proud that the city thinks of me so high and that I’m a role model for kids everywhere, but I’m more importantly proud to show the young people in this community that they can be successful as long as they put their minds to anything that they wanna do. When Trevor came up here and he was reading me his paragraph or whatever, that was the coolest thing to me ever. I mean, just the fact that I have somebody looking up to me and somebody that I’m a role model for…I’m only 20 years old…I’m still trying to live myself so that’s just amazing and I’m truly grateful for that.

But none of this would have been possible without my family. We’re all real close, we’ve been through lots of hardships and rough times but we’ve always persevered and pushed through them all. I’d like to thank my mother, she’s always been there for me. My father on being a great influence on my life and helping me become the man I am today. My sisters and all my family, I got aunts, uncles, and cousins all right there. I can’t even point them all out to you guys. But we all appreciate it and we’ve had fun and this has been a great atmosphere today. I’d also like to thank Southwestern, my school, S-DUB!  For all that they’ve did today. I’d like to thank Grand Blanc for all that they’ve done today as well. I’d like to thank the mayor, Ryan and Greg, all of the athletes that came back. They embraced me with open arms and gave me encouraging words all throughout the season and I love them all because they’ve been there for me through everything. I’d also like to thank my coach at Southwestern, I know they’re here Coach (Gary) Lee. Coach I know all you guys are here. I thank you for putting me in the situation that I am today and giving me the opportunity to be the best that I could be. I know Coach Hollywood’s out there somewhere, I seen him walking around. He around here somewhere. I gotta holla at him too.

Winning the Heisman and helping my team win the national championship, were some great achievements but my ultimate dream is to simply be the best person I can be. This is not the end of my goals, it’s just the beginning. I have school and a career and I don’t know, I just wanna be the best person I can be. I wanna have a family one day and kids and I just wanna be a great person and give God all the praise and glory and thanks for coming out to celebrate with me and bless you all. Thank you!

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