EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Denzel Valentine picked up a basketball at the age of 3 and hasn’t put it down since. He and his older brother Drew, now an assistant coach at Oakland University had a one track mind growing up.
“It was really difficult to get them Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, whatever because all they really wanted was balls. They didn’t want, you know Lego’s, whatever. They just really wanted you know just to play with basketballs or footballs,” said Kathy Valentine, Denzel’s mom.
The passion obviously paid off. Carlton Valentine never pushed basketball on Denzel. He simply introduced the game to him, but he knew at a young age his youngest boy was something special:
“Yea I told her, like one time we were downstairs and I was like, I said, he’s got that thing, and she probably don’t remember, she probably remembers,” said Carlton Valentine, Denzel’s dad.
“No I remember,” said Kathy Valentine.
“And I was like I said this guy’s special and she kept going on and on about both the kids and I’m like well, you know I love both my kids, but there’s something, there’s something with that guy that’s a little bit different than, than everybody else,” aid Carlton Valentine.
Reporter: Did you know as a kid you wanted to play big time basketball…I mean as a young kid?
“Yeah I knew I wanted to play, I had, I had a lot of dreams and you know I’d go in the driveway and if, I’d go in the driveway and act like I’m playing for the National Championship Game and things like that so I always knew I wanted to play,” said Denzel Valentine, senior guard, MSU.
And man can he ever play. A star at Lansing Sexton High School, Denzel along with current MSU teammate Bryn Forbes helped the Big Reds to two consecutive state championships, teams coached by Carlton Valentine.
Reporter: “You guys ever had a nasty fight?”
Denzel Valentine: “Yeah, a lot of those, that one when we had a scrimmage at Okemos. I think I turned it over like three times in a row and my dad took me out. And instead of going to the bench, I just literally walked out of the gym. It’s a scrimmage so it’s only like 50 people in the stands and they’re all looking at you know what we’re going to do and I just walked straight into the locker room. When I walked back out, he didn’t say nothing to me, I thought he was going to be mad, but when I get in the car, that’s when it went down.”
Reporter: “What happened then?”
Denzel Valentine: “Uh, well we’ll keep that between us.”
With Denzel playing at MSU so close to home, Carlton and Kathy have been able to attend most of his games. So is Kathy a nervous mom?
“Yes sir, I’m very nervous, I’m super nervous. The game at Syracuse when it was the Elite 8 and it was the deciding game to go to the Final Four. I was just beside myself. I was on the floor kneeling, I had my head on the chair, I couldn’t look,” said Kathy Valentine.
As a dad and a coach Carlton had to use tough love on Denzel and watching the boy become a man and now one of the top players in all of college basketball has been rewarding to dad.to say the least.
“You know Denzel’s getting everything that he deserves and we always talk about that you know, he’s worked his butt off you know. It’s not easy, they don’t grow scholarships on trees in the backyard. If they did everybody would go get one,” said Carlton Valentine.
Reporter: “Were you ever protective of him to the point where it bothered you when dad yelled at him as a coach or when Tom Izzo got in his face?”
Carlton Valentine: “She still is.”
Reporter: “It bothered you when he yelled at him?”
Kathy Valentine: “Heck yes.”
Kathy Valentine: “Because he used to be a jerk to my kids. He was harder on my kids than he was on other kids.”
Carlton Valentine: “Now that’s her perspective, you know my perspective is, nobody’s gonna get anywhere successfully without getting pushed.”
The dream for mom and dad is of course the same dream as their son to reach a Final Four once again in Denzel’s senior season.
Reporter: “What would another Final Four mean to both of you?”
Kathy Valentine: “Oh my God.”
Carlton Valentine: “That thing last year. I can’t even tell you the chills that went down my back.”
Reporter: “So that’s the emotion for you right now?”
Kathy Valentine: “Yes because I know how much it would mean to him.”
Reporter: “But those are happy tears aren’t they?”
Kathy Valentine: “Mmmhmm, but I also don’t, I wouldn’t want to put any pressure on him because no matter what happens this season, I know we’re both super-duper proud of him.”