Michigan State Basketball: Denzel “home run hitter” Valentine

EAST LANSING — With only two games under his belt, Michigan State’s 6-5 freshman Denzel Valentine has been crowned the team’s best passer by head coach Tom Izzo.

While his statistics may not necessarily show it right now, as he averages 2.5 assists per game, he has made numerous passes in the first two games that nobody else on this team would even consider.

However, today in practice, Izzo hinted that Valentine’s greatest strength could also be his biggest weakness at this point in the season.

Denzel Valentine dishes a nice pass to Derrick Nix in the Spartans victory over Kansas on Tuesday. (Photo by Nick Krug of Lawrence Journal-World)

“Denzel does a lot of great things,” Izzo said on his freshman guard. “He’s just got to quit turning the damn ball over, and if he doesn’t, then we’re going to play him at other positions, if he does, he’ll be able to help us some at more positions.”

Valentine only turned the ball over once against Kansas on Tuesday, compared to two against UConn in the season opener, but he understands that he needs to settle down a bit more.

“Sometimes I get a little carried away,” Valentine said.  “I get too unselfish and try to make the play when it’s not there.”

Izzo can see the potential in his young combo guard, but he believes that he still needs to buy in.

“I think he sees it, I think he understands it,” Izzo said. “I think he still wants to prove he can do it his way, and it’s not going to happen. If he just plays within himself and doesn’t try to go for the home run all the time…”

While Valentine is instinctively a pass first player, he believes that the solution to limiting the turnovers is being a little more selfish.

“Sometimes I need to look for my shot or just slow down a little bit and not look for the home run like coach said,” Valentine stated. “Just being able to make the right plays is what I need to work on.”