Nairn excited to face "big brother" Hield

Former high school teammates and native Bahamians set to square off in the Sweet 16

In the excitement following Michigan State’s win against Virginia on Sunday, Tum Tum Nairn got a text from one of his best friends, who was about to tip off in his own NCAA Tournament game.

Oklahoma forward Buddy Hield, a fellow native of the Bahamas and Nairn’s high school teammate, just wanted to congratulate him on the win.

”I texted him to go out there and get a win so we could play together in the Sweet 16,” Nairn said.

The game that caught Nairn’s attention as a possibility when the NCAA Tournament bracket was released now is a reality – Michigan State vs. Oklahoma.

”I thought for sure we would get to play them,” he said. “I thought it was pretty cool, but you never know what can happen in March.”

And after the No. 7 Spartans knocked off No. 2 Virginia 60-54 on Sunday and No. 3 Oklahoma held off upset-minded No. 11 Dayton 72-66, Nairn’s confidence was rewarded.

Nairn and Hield are among the handful of Bahamians currently playing major college basketball. They hail from different islands: Nairn is from Nassau on the island of New Providence, while Hield is from Freeport on Grand Bahama island, so they never met until Nairn came to play at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas.

Hield was a senior at the time when Nairn arrived as a 16-year-old sophomore.

“He just took me under his wings because we had the same goals,” Nairn said. “The same drive. We pushed each other everyday when I was at Sunrise my sophomore year. We did everything together.

”It’s my big brother.”

It almost came to be that the two reunited in college. Oklahoma was the first school to offer Nairn as a sophomore after the Sooners stopped by to watch Hield.

They talked about playing together from that point forward. It was common conversation between Nairn and Hield, one that continued as Nairn went through the recruiting process and visited Minnesota, Oklahoma, Indiana and Michigan State as a senior.

”He wanted me to go there really bad,” Nairn said. “I just kinda looked at it and what was best for me and my family and my future.”

That decision wound up being Michigan State in the end for Nairn, who had to say no to the person whom he describes as one of his best friends.

But they stay in touch constantly, talking throughout this season as Nairn worked his way into the starting lineup.

”Besides my teammates, Marvin (Clark) and (Javon Bess), Buddy is my closest friend because obviously we went to the same school and the same country,” Nairn said. “We talked a lot He told me at the beginning of the season to continue playing my role for the team and do whatever I gotta do to get wins and I kept encouraging him as he played in the Big 12. I knew how bad he wanted to win the Big 12 and I knew how hard he worked to win Big 12 player of the year.”

On Friday, when the two meet, the pride still will be there and even with a season on the line for both teams, Nairn sees the excitement of going up the matchup.

“Two Bahamians playing in the Sweet 16,” he said. “Unfortunately, somebody has to go home. We are just happy to be in the position we are.”

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