Valentine prepares for "surreal moment"

Former Oakland basketball player now sits on the Michigan State bench as the two teams meet Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. He talked about this week and the way he thinks the game will feel.

Drew Valentine donned at Oakland University for the past four seasons and played 136 games.

On Saturday, his spot will be on the opposing bench and in a suit as Michigan State plays his alma mater for the first time since his graduation.

"It's cool because I grew up watching this and my dad played here," said the current MSU graduate manager. "It's a school that's in my hometown and playing against a school that I went to. …

"It will be kind of be a surreal moment for me."

The older brother of current Spartan Denzel Valentine joined the program following his senior year at Oakland to work toward being a coach one day.

He said the scouting part of the game has been an interesting part of the week leading up to Saturday's contest at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"It's interesting from the Michigan State aspect just seeing how Oakland is being scouted," he said. "It's kind of a cool experience for me with me being a basketball junkie."

While senior point guard Keith Appling said Valentine has been giving a little intel to the Spartans this week, he said he is trying to stay out of the game planning as much as he can.

"I'm trying to stay out of it as much as I can and let the coaches do their job and the players do their job," he said. "If I can add something here or there, I'm trying to do that. I'm not really trying to do too much, just trying to play my role."

Denzel Valentine said it won't be too much of a surprise what Oakland brings to the table, especially to him having grown up watching more of the Golden Grizzlies and his brother. But still he said there will likely be some surprises.

"I know a lot about what they do and they know a lot," the younger Valentine said. "Who knows what's going to happen because it's a new year so we don't know exactly what they are going to do."

The mindset for Oakland, however, will be mostly the same. The mid-major has knocked off Tennessee twice in recent years and almost took down the Spartans the last time the teams met at The Palace, but MSU escaped with a 77-76 win.

Valentine said despite the successes of Oakland against some high-major teams, the game against Michigan State brings a little more to it.

"Michigan State is always special," he said. "With Coach Izzo being one of the best coaches in the country and playing with a lot of these guys growing up. … There's just a lot of relationship elements."

And with his relationship with many of Oakland's players, especially his former roommate Tyler Bader, it is inevitable there will be some added emotion Saturday.

Still Valentine insisted it won't be hard to keep his cool.

"I've kind of had a lot of practice this year with trying to keep my emotions out of my brother and stuff like that," he said.

"I'm just going to play it as cool as I normally have."


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