Denzel Valentine keeps soaring, scoring for Spartans

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Fullerton, Calif. — Denzel Valentine, with cameras rolling and mics hot earlier this week, was referred to as Denzel Washington.

Boise State guard Anthony Drmic, left, shoots as Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine defends during the first half.

Hey, if the shoe fits.

Valentine's star has risen this week in California, where he posted his second triple-double of the season Thursday against Boston College, then posted a career-high 32 points against Boise State in the Wooden Legacy tournament at Cal State Fullerton.

So popular these days, when he walked into a crowded Anaheim bar Saturday for a Michigan State football watch party, one fan cried out, "Denzel for President!"

Now, how does coach Tom Izzo keep Valentine's head from getting too inflated? No worries, of course.

"I've got two things going for me — me, and his dad," Izzo told The News, laughing. "If I left it up to his mother, I'd have to worry.

"He's earned everything he's got. He's got a chance to be special. He has his moments. His heart is always in the right place, and his head is always in the right place.

"And he works at it."

Valentine's dad, Carlton, was recruited to MSU by Izzo many years ago.

Before a crowd of nearly 1,000 at a bar Saturday, Izzo not-so-subtly told the crowd Valentine's first year, MSU made the Sweet Sixteen. His second, Elite Eight. HIs third, Final Four.

And then, Izzo raised his eyebrows — as if to say, watch what's next.

The Spartans are 6-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation heading into Sunday's game against the Friars, who also are 6-0 and fresh off an upset victory over Arizona in the Wooden Legacy.

The upset didn't surprise Izzo, he said, given the bad ankle injury suffered by 7-foot, 250-pound forward Kaleb Tarczewski. Arizona almost was upset in the first game against Santa Clara, which lost in overtime.

Providence is led by junior guard Kris Dunn, who averages 18.7 points.

Izzo said Providence provides another important test for the Spartans, who already have survived against national powerhouse Kansas and a tough contest here in California against Boise State, among other opponents, each of whom has provided Michigan State a different look.

"I told my staff, I thought they'd beat them," Izzo said, of Providence knocking off Arizona. "They're athletic and tough.

"As good as all of this is, it's gonna help us get better."

No. 3 MSU vs. Providence

Tip-off: 10 p.m. Sunday, Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.

TV/radio: ESPN2/760

Records: MSU 6-0, Providence 6-0

Outlook: Kris Dunn (18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists) leads Providence, which beat Arizona, 69-65, in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. ... Providence already has beaten one Big Ten team, 60-59 over Illinois.