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.


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By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Marquise Gray has a recurring dream just about every night.

He’s in the National Basketball Association, he doesn’t know what team he’s on. It’s the tip-off, he has on the number 45 with a stylish headband to match his jersey. Before the ball goes up he looks in the front row and gives a wink, he doesn’t know who it’s directed to.

What the Beecher graduate does know is that this may be a sign.

“I feel like that’s God telling me don’t let the dream die,” Gray said of his NBA aspirations. “In the word it says if you have faith the size of a mustard seed than you can move a mountain.”

A mustard seed is typically 1 or 2 mm in diameter.

Gray feels it only takes that much certainty.

On Wednesday, he boarded a plane to Mexico with great certainty of his abilities while preparing for his second season of international basketball. Last year, Gray played in Turkey for the Gelisim Koleji while averaging 17 points and 10.7 boards per contest.

In 2009, Gray played on the Detroit Pistons’ summer league team but couldn’t crack the team’s regular season roster.

“I had the chance to grow as a man. Did I like everything that happened? No.” Gray
reflected. “If I could would I change some stuff? Yes. But at the same time, everything that I went through made me the man that I am today.”

Gray spent four years playing for the Michigan State Spartans where he averaged 4.4 points and 3.9 rebounds over his career. In high school, he was regarded as one of the top players in the nation. His 2004 prep class included future NBA players: Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, and Jordan Farmar.

Some scouts at the time even believed Gray could have skipped college to walk across the stage and shake commissioner David Stern’s hand directly after receiving his diploma.

But Gray wasn’t caught up in the hype, largely because of the tough love he received from his older brother, Keenan.

“I just wanted to keep him level-headed, because if he got to the point where he thought he was too good then maybe he would stop working,” Keenan said. “I wouldn’t tell him ‘good game.’ I would point out everything wrong he did.”

“I had the chance to go out of high school but I promised my mother I was going to get my education,” Gray added. “If I would’ve went to the league out of high school, yeah, I would have had the money but I would have been bounced around. I wasn’t mature enough to handle that lifestyle.”

Before he left his hometown to go overseas, Gray had to fulfill a commitment he made to his family at the Second Chance Church. He opened the doors to the gym at his church home last Saturday —formerly identified as Stewart Elementary school — for kids in the area to play on his Wii system, board games and basketball.

Gray thinks the kids need to be more “God-conscious,” which is something he developed after his NBA dream halted and he went off to play in Turkey.

“I want to let them know that it’s someone that’s not much older than them but at the same time still can relate to some of the things they’re going through,” Gray said. “I just want to let them know that I care (and) let them know that I love them.”

The members of the church applaud his energy.

“To see him, it’s a blessing and it brings a smile on my face because he doesn’t have to do this,” 56-year-old Second Chance Church attendee Jimmie Hatcher said. “He could be out doing something for himself but here he is doing something for them.”

Religion is now a way of life for Gray but basketball is still his passion. He describes his attraction to the game as if it were a drug. The 6-foot-8 baller believes he itches when he’s away from the sport for too long.

He can scratch that itch again with his second pro season just around the corner.

 

Former Northern and MSU star Antonio Smith coaches the Northwestern freshman team at a recent game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

A loud thud travels outside of the Steve SchmidtGymnasium at Mott Community College. Inside, a janitor buffs the hardwood as a 6-foot-9, 260-pound man shoots jumpers and works on low post moves all alone.

Draped in all Michigan State University attire, Antonio Smith looks as if he’s preparing to compete in a highly competitive basketball game later in the evening. Sweat trickles down his face and seeps through his green and white practice jersey when he finally decides to take a quick break.

He’s 72 minutes early for his job as Mott’s assistant women’s basketball coach. When the actual players arrive nearly thirty minutes later, Smith’s already warmed up as he takes part in a few three-point shooting games with the team to help them get loose.

For the past month, the former MSU Spartan and Flint Northern graduate has served as Letitia Hughley’s assistant coach at Mott. Smith is also in his second season as the head coach for the freshmen boys basketball team at Northwestern High School. His hands-on approach and dedication to both positions have made him a perfect fit.

“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Hughley said. “He comes in the morning and works out with the girls and stretches with them and jogs with them and all that stuff.”

Northwestern varsity coach Dave Bush agrees.

“He’s been good all over the board, he’s our freshman coach and he helps with all of the teams actually,” Bush said. “He’s got so much knowledge and the kids are absorbing that every time he talks.”

Smith gained that knowledge through building an astounding hoops resume. In 1995, he led Northern to a Class A state championship and finished as the runner-up to Robert Traylor in the Michigan Mr. Basketball race. From 1995-1999, Smith helped rejuvenate MSU basketball. Smith is still considered by most as being the initial person to start the whole Flint-to-MSU pipeline. After college, Smith played three seasons in the Continental Basketball Association with the Great Lakes Storm and the Grand Rapids Hoops. He also played overseas in Italy for three seasons.

While on the court, Smith couldn’t picture himself leading a team from the sideline. The fact that no Flint city school has won a state championship since his team did it in1995 was enough to make him want to make a difference and help restore the city’s tradition.

There’s only one problem with being a coach.

“I cant check in,” Smith joked. “I just want my team to resemble me and when they’re not out there playing hard, I get frustrated at times on the sideline.”

He doesn’t have much to be mad about. The freshmen boys basketball team has won its first eight games of the season. Last year it finished with an 8-3 overall record. When Smith was in his prime, most of the kids he now coaches were still in diapers.

“I never seen him play but I heard about him,” 15-year-old Northwestern freshman, Cortez Lewis said. “I know he’s got trophies at Michigan State and stuff like that.”

Lewis was only three years old when Smith graduated from college. Smith played on the same team as some of their fathers growing up.

Coaching has been more than just a job for Smith, it’s helped him restore order into his personal life.

“It’s just a blessing. It will help me re-direct my life and get the discipline back in my life that it takes to get things in order,” Smith said. “I tell the guys on the team that the discipline that you learn in sports can carry over to your everyday life, and it’s helping me get things back in order with my family and with God and everything, so I’ve really benefited from coaching.”

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!

By Eric Woodyard

“He had this dream that he wanted to get to the NBA, but he had to get better at what he did, and his freshman year at Michigan State he just vowed that he was going to be a great shooter,” remembers former Flint Journal sports reporter Dean Howe. As a freshman, Furlow served as a sixth man for MSU. This was the first season in two decades that first-year students were allowed to play varsity college basketball, and Furlow made his presence felt immediately, on and off the court.

“I remember when he was a freshman and we traveled by bus a lot, and we went to play Kentucky before the Big Ten season,” Ganakas recalls. “We beat Kentucky at Kentucky, which was unheard of in those days, and then we went from there to Tennessee and participated in a tournament in Tennessee, so we had a long trip. We got to know Terry pretty well and the guy could imitate people, he had a nice deep voice and could sing, and I remember that he was entertaining the players and he was only a freshman.”

By the time Furlow was a senior, he had blossomed into one of the most lethal scorers the Big Ten would ever see. He finished the ’75-76 season as the third-leading scorer in the nation (29.4 average) and led the Big Ten in scoring for a second consecutive season. He was named to the All-Big Ten first team and received third team All-American honors. Furlow finished his career with 1,777 points, at the time the most in MSU history. Furlow even went on a streak during his senior season in which he scored 140 points in six days (a school-record 50 points against Iowa on January 5, 48 against Northwestern three days later, and then 42 points against Ohio State two days later). “The night he scored 50 points, I just marveled at that,” says Ganakas.

After an amateur career in which he’d morphed from a virtual unknown to a college All-American, Furlow became the 12th pick in the 1976 Draft. The 76ers chose Furlow, but he didn’t see many minutes in Philly as he was forced to play behind all-pro teammates Doug Collins and Julius “Dr. J” Erving. After his rookie season, the 76ers traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In Cleveland, Furlow averaged 8.9 ppg in the regular season and upped that to 16.0 ppg in the first round of the ’78 Playoffs against the Hawks. Then, 49 games into the following season, the Hawks acquired Furlow and he once again showed out in the postseason, averaging 15.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.2 apg over nine games in the ’79 Playoffs.

While never an All-Star, Furlow gained respect as one of the game’s deadliest shooters. “I just remember him popping in that jump shot,” Howe says. “He would go straight up and he just had this great form on his jump shot. He could really get up high and you couldn’t block his shot; and at the top of his jump, he’d just let it go. His follow through was just real beautiful to watch. He was just a great jump shooter.”

Furlow started the ’79-80 season in a Hawks uniform, but after 21 games he was traded to the Jazz. Although the Jazz didn’t make the Playoffs, he was surely a big part of their plans going forward. Then the unthinkable happened.

Furlow’s funeral was flooded with basketball heroes such as Erving, Magic Johnson, John Drew, George McGinnis and Campy Russell, who all made the trip to Flint to pay their respects. Since his death, players like Greg Kelser and Magic Johnson have both come forward and dedicated sections of books they’ve written to pay homage to the deceased hoopster. Each reflected on him as a person with a great personality who played a brotherly role in their young lives.

“During my high school years, Terry took me under his wing and more or less adopted me as his little brother,” Johnson wrote in his ’92 autobiography, My Life. “‘Young Fella,’ he said, ‘you’re gonna hang out with me.’ After pickup games, the two of us would play one-on-one. I thought I was pretty good but Terry was a terrific shooter. For weeks on end, he destroyed me every single time we played. It was always 15-0.”

“There were nights when we would (work out) late into the evening and I would get a little worried because I was staying in the dormitory, so they stopped serving dinner at a certain time, and I also had to get to study hall four nights a week,” Kelser says. “I was worried that I wasn’t gonna eat dinner and Terry would say, ‘Don’t worry about dinner, you can come and eat with me.’ He had an apartment and he obviously had plenty of food in that apartment and he would say, ‘Hey! You’ll just come and eat with me!’ That to me was just the epitome of leadership, because here’s a senior taking massive interest in a freshman and showing him the ropes, and I wanted very much to be just as good as Terry Furlow. He was tremendous”

Furlow will be remembered by some as a player who worked tirelessly to perfect his basketball skills in order to become an NBA star. “I envision that he might never have been an All-Star, but I think Terry could have been a very solid NBA player for at least 10 years,” Kelser says. But for others, he will be remembered as a brash kid who was taught a very important lesson about driving under the influence. Terry Furlow may not have become a household name, but to so many who knew him, Terry Furlow was a man they will never forget.

*This post can also be viewed on slamonline.com as well as in SLAM 140!

by Eric Woodyard

Thousands of cars drive on North Saginaw Street in Flint, MI. Filled with various urban landmarks, including liquor stores, pawn shops and fast food restaurants, most residents don’t even notice Gracelawn Cemetery, which lies in the middle of all the action. In the midst of the cemetery is a tall, light burgundy marble tomb planted into the ground which reads, simply, FURLOW. Underneath this headstone rests one of the greatest players who ever balled in the city of Flint, Terry Furlow.

“I pass that grave almost every day,” says Terry’s younger brother, Eric Furlow. “My mom passed a couple of years ago, so she is buried right next to my brother, and I basically go down Saginaw Street every day where their graves are by each other.”

Before his untimely passing 30 years ago this spring at the age of 25, the 6-4, 190-pound Furlow was on the cusp of becoming a household name. Not only was he in his fourth season in the NBA, but he had just averaged a career-high 16 ppg for the Utah Jazz after being acquired from the Atlanta Hawks during the 1979-80 season. Everything was finally falling in place, not only professionally but also personally.

“(My) fondest memory is when we went to Atlanta, when he was playing with the Atlanta Hawks, and he had bought a house down there. He invited all of the family down there, and I’m talking about all of my brothers and sisters and all the family members, and he really showed us how to live,” Eric says. “He put us up on a lot of things and he told me and my siblings that we could basically be anything and do anything in the world that we want to do.”

On May 23, 1980, Terry Furlow stepped behind the wheel of his 1979 Mercedes Benz following a party in Cleveland for one of his former teammates, Clarence “Foots” Walker. On the way to his destination, his car went out of control on Interstate 71 in suburban Linndale and crashed head-on into a steel utility pole at about 3 a.m. Furlow died instantly. An autopsy revealed traces of cocaine and the tranquilizer Valium in his bloodstream.

His death had a profound affect on his family, friends and teammates. “I was devastated when I heard the news from my father, who was a big Terry Furlow fan,” former Michigan State University teammate and current Pistons TV commentator Greg Kelser recalls. “I got a telephone call from my dad the morning after the accident and word had got out that he didn’t survive the accident, and I just could not believe it. I could not believe that I was hearing this news because in my mind and in my eyes, Terry was such a persona, and I could not imagine him being dead at 25 years of age.”

“I remember when I came home from Utah and somebody told me that he ran into a land pole. That was a sad day in my life. I will never forget that day,” former Jazz teammate and current Nuggets coach Adrian Dantley says.

Furlow was hardly the first NBA player of his era to make mistakes with drugs or alcohol. Earlier in 1980, Jazz forward Bernard King was arrested on charges of assaulting a woman in his apartment and agreed to alcohol treatment. In June of that same year, All-Star starter “Fast” Eddie Johnson was also forced to dodge bullets in a parking lot on the south side of Atlanta after prior suspicions with drug involvement. Johnson was arrested three weeks later for possession of cocaine.

Considering Furlow’s past, which also included a history of fights and run-ins with the law, most fans may have viewed his passing as just another tragedy from his era. Others have a more nuanced approach. “The thing that I would like people to know that [Furlow] should not be condemned for the choices he made that may have led to his own demise, because he was probably, more than anything, a victim of the thinking of that day of young people,” Kelser says. “Just for him, unfortunately, it proved to be fatal, but there were lessons to be learned from that. And who knows? His negative circumstance may have saved other lives and awakened other people to the perils of driving while impaired.”

*****

Born on October 18, 1954, Terry Furlow grew up on Flint’s north side and attended Dort Elementary, Emerson Junior High and Flint Northern HS. At Flint Northern, a storied program that most recently produced NBA players such as Trent Tucker, Glen Rice, Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves, Furlow didn’t even make the varsity squad until his senior year. As a senior, he played for Northern’s undefeated 1972 state champions, who were coached by future Michigan coach Bill Frieder. Although Furlow was respected as a tremendous shooter, his skills didn’t initially attract the state’s bigger universities. Instead, those big-time programs were interested in his teammate, Wayman Britt, who had moved to Flint with his family only a year earlier from North Carolina. “Terry played for the front line of that team where all of the players were kind of the same size and kind of shot the ball well from the baseline. Terry was one of those guys,” says Gus Ganakas, who was head coach at Michigan State at the time. “Went 6-4, could shoot, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him. We had sent Terry a preliminary application to see if he would respond to find out his academic record, and that was as far as we went with it because we were gonna take Britt, and that was the only player we wanted from Flint Northern at that time.”

After Britt received late interest from Michigan, Ganakas had a scholarship to spare at MSU. With Frieder pushing on his behalf, Furlow was offered the scholarship and officially became a Spartan in the fall of ’72. He never made an official visit. He’d only talked to Coach Ganakas once.

*This post can also be viewed on slamonline.com and in SLAM issue 140!

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!

There are certain things in life that never go out of style. In Michigan, no matter how bad both teams may be, it still generates a huge buzz as well as a level of excitement when the Michigan State Spartans step onto the hardwood to challenge the Michigan Wolverines.

Although the rivalry hasn’t meant much over the past few years, the rivalry is now renewed. The pots are sweetened with Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green representing East Lansing in that Spartan green and white and Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims trying to revitalize Wolverine basketball in Ann Arbor sporting the maize and blue.

Both teams have produced some of the all-time great teams in college basketball from the Flintstones to the Fab Five. Both teams have lifted championship banners in their home gyms. Both teams are representations of the Great Lakes State.

While Michigan leads the all-time series over Michigan State, 91-72, as well as a 56-28 advantage in all the games played on their home floor in Ann Arbor, MSU has dominated as of late. The Spartans have won 16 of the last 19 games including the last 6 of 9 in the Chrisler Arena. In the last meeting on Feb. 10, 2009, the Spartans won 54-42, so the Wolverines were looking for revenge.

In just the second sellout at the Chrisler Arena this season, the Michigan Wolverines hosted the Michigan State Spartans on ESPN on January 26th, 2010…

Pre Game

Walking into the arena, I could barely feel my arms as I carried in a huge television camera, a bag, and a tripod. This would mark the first time that I would attend a national game from a photographer’s perspective on my own since taking my intern this semester at the WMMT 3 television station out of Kalamazoo, MI. Despite the nervousness to produce good content, I was determined to excel and when I walked into the gym and seen the sell-out crowd all in the middle of the national anthem all of my emotions turned to excitement. It seems as though everybody had on yellow, with a touch a green in certain areas for the fans who made the drive from East Lansing. The arena reminded me of a big mustard bottle seriously.

Following the national anthem, the starters were introduced and ironically Manny Harris didn’t start for the Wolverines which left everyone a bit confused. Whether or not it was because of his suspension from last game, which UM head coach John Beilein insisted it was not after the game, was unclear initially.

The introduction of Tom Izzo generated lots of boos while Beilien’s name rung bells. From then, the ball was tipped and the excitement of Big Ten basketball began…

First Half

When Manny Harris entered the game after missing the first 3:12 in the half, 13,751 fans went crazy. As the skinny, Detroit native kneeled in front of the scorer’s table and finally stepped onto the court, you would have thought Michael Jackson walked into the gym it got that loud.

From that point on, the game really started as both teams played their best players. For the Spartans, Raymar Morgan did damage to anyone that was in his path. He connected on five of six shots for 13 points and pulled down 5 boards.

Despite Morgan’s domination, the Spartans entered the locker room at halftime down 27-25 in a typical Big Ten basketball game in which both teams shot well under 45% from the field, with defense being the main focus.

Halftime

After sitting courtside, being stuck with a huge camera in my palms, my legs began  to cramp up so I entered the tunnel to get some circulation in my legs. To my surprise I ran into two Detroit Pistons (Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko) who were taking a break from their busy season to come watch the action.

On sight, Stuckey noticed me from covering some of the games and we engaged in conversation. “This is a new experience for me, my school was nowhere near this big,” Stuckey said.

I also ran into one of the most famous Wolverines of all-time, Jalen Rose. Sporting a red corduroy suit, with a pair of gray, red, and white Air Force 1’s wrapped around his feet, I got a very quick word with him as everyone seemed to attempt to do the same.

SLAM: Has it been anything that Michigan has done to impress you in the first half so far?

Jalen Rose: They’re playing hard.  We’ve got to knock down a couple of more shot because we gave up a couple of uncontested lay-ups but for the most part we’re going up against the No. 5 ranked team so we’re in good shape so far.

SLAM: So you’ve gotta be pretty proud of their effort…

JR:  Oh yeah, I’m real proud of their effort. They’re playing real well, the crowd’s into the game. I don’t know how having two officials is gonna affect us in the second half because we’re going up against a physical State team but we’ll see.

SLAM: Obviously you’re from the D (aka Detroit), are you so are you going back after the game?

JR: Yeah, yeah, I still stay between Detroit and California

Second Half

As expected, the game heated up in the second half. Neither team could maintain a lead, as there were 17 lead changes in the period. The game would come down to two final possessions.

With 7.2 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Kalin Lucas stepped up to right side of the top of the key to receive a pass  from teammate Durrell Summers. Without hesitation, Lucas blew by Michigan’s Zack Novac with a quick left-handed dribble into the lane and pulled up for a mid-range jumper that slapped into the net for his twelfth point on the night. Leaving only 3.5 seconds remaining, MSU took the lead, 57-56.

After a foul from Draymond Green to stop the clock, only 1.5 seconds remained on the shot clock. Being pressured on the inbounds, Stu Douglass threw a picture perfect alley-oop to DeShawn Sims who couldn’t connect on the lay-up, partly because of his angle and the Spartans stampeded on the floor in victory yet again.

MSU is now 8-0 in conference play.

Post-Game

Wearing a black suit, white shirt, and a MSU green tie, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo took the podium for the press conference, happy that his team escaped yet another close game and proud of his point guard’s latest clutch heroics.

“In general, I thought we had big defensive stops down the stretch and that’s what you’ve gotta do to win big games and we had them and then we went to our go-to guy and if anybody ever wonders why I expect a lot out of him, it shouldnt take you long to figure out why,” Izzo said. “Because he can do it with the pass (and) he asked me to go into the middle of that zone and I just fall in love with guys that want to coach the team in a positive way and he came to me and made a couple of adjustments.”

*Stats

Raymar Morgan scored a game-high 20 points, connecting on 8 of his 9 field goals. Durrell Summers also chipped in 10 points and 10 boards as well as 5 assists for just his second career double-double.

DeShawn Sims led the Wolverines with 19 points and 5 rebounds while Manny Harris chipped in 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists.

*Next Game

MSU’s next game will be played against Northwestern on their home court on January 30th.

UM’s next game will be played once again in the Chrisler Arena, when they take on Iowa on January 30th as well.

*You can also check these notes out at SLAMonline.com!

Before I begin, I would like to state this: There’s no two teams in all of sports that I love more than the Los Angeles Lakers and the Michigan State Spartans!

Now that you know that, it should be no big surprise that I have cheered on Lakers guard, Shannon Brown ever since I found out that he committed to play in East Lansing with Tom Izzo and the MSU Spartans back in 2003. Brown has the heart, intensity, and motivation that is quickly winning over basketball fans across the nation. The man even has his own campaign (LetShannonDunk.com) going in order to help draw attention his dunks for this year’s competition. The promotion from the site must have paid off as Brown was informed yesterday that he has been selected to take part in the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest along with Nate Robinson, Gerald Wallace and the winner of the new “dunk-in” competition between DeMar DeRozen and Eric Gordon.

How did he respond? He dropped a career-high 22 points on 8-12 shooting in a 98-92 victory over the Orlando Magic last night, ironically without any dunks.

With that being said, I am placing all of my bets on Brown to become the decade’s first Slam Dunk champion at this year’s All Star Weekend in Dallas, Texas on February 13th in the American Airlines Center. Although he is not a native of Michigan (he’s from Maywood, Illinois to be exact), the state has adopted him after his tenure with one of our favorite college teams and I am confident that his creativity as well as his 44.5-inch vertical jumping will be more than enough to win the crown.

What the world is just now taking notice of is what us Michigan fans have witnessed since his days in a Spartans uni which lasted from 2003-2006. Back when he rocked the No. 3 with the french braids tucked neatly under his headband. He been doing this thing they call dunking since way back in the day. Like the time he jumped over Penn State’s Ben Luber or the time he posterized Stanford’s Matt Haryasz back in 04. He’s been doing this! Since the summer of going from middle schooler to high schooler.

“It was going into my freshman year at Tim Hardaway basketball camp,” Brown said in a Q&A on LetShannonDunk.com. “I actually got a steal, was on the break by myself and I went up and I dunked it. It wasn’t a clean flush, but it was good enough to where I knew I could do it. I’d been trying it in gym class my eighth grade year before that summer camp, and it wasn’t working for me. Then I finally got my chance.”

He’s been doing this! Since the ’03 High School Slam Dunk Contest went he went up against LeBron James on his home turf of Akron Ohio. Not only will Brown win the contest, he deserves to win it after all he’s been through. In one year he has morphed from an unpopular NBA journeyman who had been on 4 teams in 3 years to a fan favorite who is appreciated all over the National Basketball Association averaging 7.6 points as the Lakers’ second-leading scorer off the pine.

Through it all, he still remains humble as indicated in his latest interview with the USA Today where he was quoted as saying: “I used to be a big stat guy, and I still am, but winning is the biggest stat of all, and I’m an NBA champion,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of guys with bigger stats than me that can’t say that. I’m trying to get better every day, as a basketball player and as a man. I have a great foundation that’s helping me do it.”

In the words of Jay-Z, if you can’t respect that you’re whole perspective is wack.

On that note, here is a dunk montage of Shannon Brown. Enjoy!

*this post can also be viewed on mlive.com at It’s Just Sports!

charlie bell and shane b

     On Wednesday, July 29, the stars shined bright at the Pure Michigan Pro-Am golf tournament. Serving as a friendly kick-off to the final Buick Open, many celebrities (…athletes and entertainers) were teamed up with professional golfers at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich.

     Many of the best golfers in the world were in attendance, including: Tiger Woods, John Daly, Jim Furyk, David Duval, and Woody Austin. They were asked to pair up with some of the more popular people in the world like Bob Seger (Rock Star), John Kuester (Pistons Head Coach), Ken Holland (Detroit Red Wings GM), Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson (Pistons Legend), and Bill Laimbeer (Pistons Legend). With all of the odd pairings, the one that was pretty unique was Milwaukee Bucks’ guard, Charlie Bell and Houston Rockets’ forward, Shane Battier.

    Since their prep days, the two have been forced to compete against one another on the hardwood. As Bell held down the Flint area, Battier, a native of Birmingham, Mich., was making a name for himself in the Detroit area.

c. bell hs     In high school, Bell starred for Flint Southwestern Academy and Battier played for Detroit Country Day. In 1997, they finished in first and second place for Michigan’s Mr. Basketball award, with Battier ultimately winning, 896-863. This was largely due to the success of his team which captured the Class B state championship over Saginaw Swan Valley that year. 

    During their college tenure, they also competed against each other several times but most notably in the 1999 NCAA Final Four with Duke topping Michigan State 68-62. The Tournament was played at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2000, Bell got redemption for the loss with a National Championship and recognition as one of the “Flintstones.”

   Now the two have a renewed rivalry in the National Basketball Association with Bell starring for the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference and Battier lacing up his sneakers for the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference. Although it may seem as though Battier has been getting the better end of the rivalry, he surely lost the “Best Dressed” contest in the Pro-Am tournament.

     Battier showed up wearing a pair of the tightest light blue pants on the entire course to go along with a dark, striped shirt that did nothing for his attire with what looked to be Adidas basketball sneakers. Bell on the other hand sported a green Nike golf shirt, khakis, NBA socks, and a hat that read “YES! to HURLEY.”

     Immediately after the two left the 18th hole, they were swarmed by the media for under 10 minutes and I snuck in a couple questions (…my initials are by them). The others were asked by other journalists on the course…

You guys played in the Final Four right? Talk about your rivalry with each other…

SB: Yeah one year. In 1999 and we battle each other twice a year in the NBA and we still see each other so it’s a good little friendly rivalry.

Did you beat him again today?

SB: Probably

CB: But see my thing is that he plays in Houston so it’s the warm weather city and he can golf all year round. And you know Milwaukee and  us people here in the Midwest, we cant get on the course in November, December, and January so he has a slight advantage.

What are your thoughts on this being the last Buick Open? How does that hurt you?

CB: That’s really bad. I mean, year in and year out, this is something that I think a lot of people look forward to. The best golfers in the country coming here to Warwick Hills to the Flint area and this is the only tournament that comes on a regular basis in the state of Michigan. So I think the state of Michigan is losing a big tournament and a big draw as far as for the economy. It’s gonna be sad that this might be the last one.

battierSB: This has been a great tournament. I grew up watching it. It’s a thrill for me to be out here playing today and hopefully the PGA tour will realize that Michigan is a great golf state and we need to keep an event in Michigan and you never know what can happen. It’s a great event. I know that pros love playing here so hopefully we can try to keep the event here.

EW: Hey Charlie, I see that you’re on twitter quite often, have you been updating your twitter page out here on the course at all?

CB: Well, When I first got going but as the day went on it really wasnt nothing to twitter about. It was a bad day of golf (smiles). If I would’ve made a couple birdies, maybe I would’ve tweeted about it but it was a lot of bogeys and double bogeys and I aint wanna embarass myself in the tweeting land.

Any side bets between the two of you?

CB: No

SB: Nah

CB: I seen him out there on the practice range and I ain’t wanna bet nothing. I saw his swing looking pretty good.

After playing this tough course, can you talk about how hard golf is and how good these players really are on the golf course even compared to pro ball?

SB: Well these guys are pretty amazing and the things they can do with a little white ball. So we have a lot of respect as pro athletes for the amount of concentration and level of skill that you have to have.

CB: I would say basketball comes natural and it’s just one of those things where once you get out there, it’s kinda easy. But you know out here, this doesnt come natural like Shane said, this is tough. You really respect golfers a lot more once you get out here and especially when you’re out here by yourself and you can really have some fun. In basketball we practice our jump shot everday and golfers they practice their golf shots everyday so my hat goes off to them.

EW: It looks like you’re in better shape than when I last seen you, what have you been doing this off-season?

CB: Well, I’ve been working out a little bit, not as much as I want to. It’s been tough going back and forth from Michigan to Milwaukee, vacationing, trying to spend some time with the family but I’m trying to stay in shape. I got two months, August and September to go ahead and pick it up a little bit and I gotta come in ready because with Coach Skiles, if you dont come in that first week of training camp ready than, it’s gonna be a tough one!

Immediately after the event was over with, Bell tweeted “All over.Didn’t play very well but I had a great time and a lot of pro advice. Not a bad day at all. Off to Milwaukee for Jaime Foxx concert.”

*click on the pic to view this post at ‘It’s Just Sports!’