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December 15, 2012

Cleaves: At MSU, 'It's family for life'



EAST LANSING - When Mateen Cleaves broke into his National Championship dance after a lay-up midway through Friday's Alumni Game at Jenison Field House, the crowd laughed and cheered. Tom Izzo smiled and teared up a little bit.

"Did he? Good. Good," Cleaves said. "I like to make him cry. Cause he makes me cry."

During the Alumni Game, which is part of MSU's 50-year celebration of "The Game of Change," an announced crowd of 6,500 watched more than 40 former Spartans combine for 243 points and even more smiles, aches and pains. But mostly smiles.

"We get emotional because being at Michigan State was one of the best times of our lives," said Cleaves, who was captain of the Spartans' 2000 National Championship team. "I cherish it."

Cleaves managed 4 points in helping the white team to a 125-118 victory. Fellow Flintstones Charlie Bell and Morris Peterson scored 13 points apiece. David Thomas, who was also part of the 2000 National Championship team, scored a team-high 14.

Cleaves is an historian of sorts when it comes to Spartan basketball. He, perhaps more than anyone, relished this chance to play in this historic building for the first time.

Unlike other participants from the Steve Smith era on back, Cleaves represents the beginning of an era of Spartan basketball whose players never suited up in Jenison.

"To be able to come into the same building that Terry Furlow played in, the original Flintstone, and the Magic Johnsons, the Greg Kelsers, the Scott Skiles, all the greats, and Steve Smith, growing up watching him, that's who I really loved, and now I can tell my little boy that I played in one of the greatest arenas ever," he said.

And Cleaves will be able to recall the time he did his National Championship dance in East Lansing, more than 12 years after debuting it in Indianapolis. The crowd recognized it immediately.

"That was sweet," Cleaves said. "The reaction (from the crowd) was even better than the dance.

"When I made the lay-up, I thought, 'This might be the only opportunity. I might not get another one.' It was all in fun."

Cleaves said he wasn't planning to do it.

"He's a spontaneous guy and a special guy," Izzo said. "Was that unbelievable? I mean that was special. Only he could come up with it, just like when he came up with it in the first place. I didn't know what the hell he was doing when he did it the second time, but I knew what he was doing when he did it the second time here and I liked it even more."














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