Dawson, Trice finishing up together

From AAU together in middle school to senior year, the pair of longtime friends set to play their final home game at Michigan State on Wednesday.

One came in heralded nationally. The other arrived with much less hoopla.

On Wednesday, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice will celebrate their seniors days – as teammates and friends since middle school.

”It means a lot to be go through this with somebody you’ve known for a while and been friends with the whole time,” Trice said. “I’m happy we finally made it, but at the same time, I’m going to be sad it’s over with.”

Dawson, from Gary, Ind., and Trice, from Huber Heights, Ohio, played AAU basketball together with the SYF Players, meeting for the first time in seventh grade. They became friends at that juncture, but it seemed unlikely the pair would play in college together.

Dawson was recruited nationally, while Trice picked up mostly mid-major offers. A self-described late bloomer, Trice landed a Michigan State offer as interest picked up late from Big Ten programs.

”I was surprised the first time I got the call,” Trice said. “It’s a humbling experience going through that.”

The pair committed on the same day – August 4, 2010 – to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

”When I made my decision and I committed and I found out that Travis committed, too,” Dawson said. “I texted him like, ‘Wow, we are going to play on the same team in college.’ He was happy. My family was happy. I was happy. Our AAU coach was happy for us and everyone else was, too.”

Their paths got started together, but have run similar courses since as well. Trice and Dawson have both been four-year contributors and key members as seniors, while both having overcome injuries throughout their careers.

”There’s a lot of memories in (Breslin Center),” Dawson said. "Coach Izzo, my teammates and my coaches, taught me a lot from being here. I’ve grown up from a young man who came in immature and made some silly mistakes.

”Over the past few years, it’s been a long journey.”

Their careers got started in a special way, as their first game was on an aircraft carrier in San Diego against North Carolina and have consisted of many big moments and big stages.

“It’s been fun – life changing,” Trice said. “I just look back on some of the things I got to do. I got to play in Madison Square Garden five or six times, I’ve lost count. Played on the aircraft carrier, played overseas in Germany. Met the president. Had countless big games. Played in every venue you could think of. It’s been enjoyable.”

For Izzo, it has been an enjoyable ride as well with the pair.

“I’ve had a lot less problems with Branden and Travis than with a lot of guys,” he said. “Both of their families have been very instrumental in the help they’ve given me and them.”

Dawson is close to graduating in four years, while being in the starting lineup whenever healthy in his four years.

”He takes care of business, he’s on time, he’s done a great job,” Izzo said. “His senior year, he’s been pretty doggone good.”

A barely 6-foot guard, Trice ranks high on the list of players to make the most of their talent under Izzo. Taking into account the loss of two summers due to injury – one that had Izzo fearing for his life.

”Trav, a kid that in all honesty might have been recruited more as a backup, has exceed my expectations of what he could do,” Izzo said. “What he’s done for the most part has been extraordinary. … He’s definitely playing his best basketball at the end of his senior year and nothing gets better than that.”

Their careers have consisted of an Elite Eight, three Sweet 16s, a Big Ten title and two Big Ten Tournament titles.

Junior Matt Costello, who has lived with both Dawson and Trice, insists they left their mark, one they had to build on their own.

“They have been huge,” Costello said. “BJ coming in as an all American. Everybody expected big things from him and he has produced since he has been here. Trav, a tiny little guard, just like the program loves little guards. He came in and he is a different breed. Normally, it’s like Tum (Tum Nairn) or Travis Walton. He has come in and did his part.

”I love their leadership and love their camaraderie that they’ve instilled in us.”

And now it is their turn to kiss center court at Breslin Center to wrap up their final home game together – together, just the way things have gone from middle school to committing on the same day to injuries to achievements.

”It’s surreal and we’ve had a long journey,” Dawson said. “We’ve had a lot of memories in this place. It’s hard to believe.”

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