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Magic believes fellow Spartan Valentine is pro stock

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Anaheim, Calif. — Draymond Green was saying the other day Denzel Valentine could actually pass Magic Johnson's MSU triple-double record.

So, what say you, Magic?

"Ummm, I believe he can, but triple-doubles are hard to get. It's not easy," Johnson said Sunday before MSU took on Providence in the Wooden Legacy championship game.

"You don't go out saying, 'I'm going to get a triple-double.' That just happens because you're aggressive. Can he get six more? Of course. But it's harder than saying it.

"Remember, it took him three years just to get the first one. It doesn't come that easy.

"But if he is able to do it, I'm fine, because he's another Spartan."

Johnson had eight triple-doubles during his two years at Michigan State. Green had three in his four years. Now Valentine has two early in his fourth year -- and both have come this month.

Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine (45) reacts after making a basket against Boston College during the first half.

Valentine had a triple-double Thursday in the Wooden Legacy opener against Boston College, then put up a career-high 32 points Friday against Boise State.

He's made a lot of fans during this trip to California, though he already had one in Magic.

"This tournament, he's just been playing at the next level," said Johnson, who sat courtside Sunday, and drew a huge roar when he was shown on the video board at Honda Center — and he even did a little dance. "I believe he's the best all-around guard in college basketball.

"Now he's taken it to another level. His shooting, you can see he's worked on it. Now he's coming off screens (his four straight 3s Friday were off screens). You didn't see that before. ... And his basketball IQ just reminds me of Draymond, and he's gonna make that same type of impact, too."

Green, who wasn't considered a great pro prospect coming out off Michigan State, has turned into a fine player with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Green this offseason signed a five-year, $82-million deal with the Warriors, and is backing it up. On Saturday, he recorded a second straight triple-double.

Johnson sees Valentine having similiar success at the next level.

"The game in the NBA is looking for those type of guys," Johnson said. "The big guy is gone now. Our game has turned to the 6-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-8 that can a little bit of everything.

"You've gotta give Coach (Tom) Izzo credit with both of those guys, Draymond and Denzel, because when they first came (to MSU) to where they are today, Tom has played a hand, pushing them, pushing them, pushing them, pushing them.

"And even now he's pushing Denzel, and it's beautiful to see.

"I jjust want him to have an outstanding season, not just him but I want the team, because we have a deeper team this year and a better team, with a great leader. Denzel's a great leader."

Johnson, 56, recently returned home to Los Angeles after spending the holidays in Detroit and Lansing, where he handed out Thanksgiving meals and other essentials to the needy.

He's happy to be around the basketball team, but he finished a quick pregame interview with a statement that was unprompted.

It was about the MSU football team, which is headed to the Big Ten championship game.

"Don't forget to tell everybody, Coach (Mark) Dantonio, that's what I'm happy about

"Next Saturday. I'm gonna be there!"

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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