Belleville coach Adam Trumpour said his wife Christine told him it was the perfect date last Wednesday when they took in Michigan State’s practice before the Spartans headed for Washington, D.C., for the NCAA Tournament East Regional.
Trumpour was watching with a high level of interest since his prize player, MSU 6-foot-7 freshman Gabe Brown, was getting ready for the biggest games of his life.
Trumpour had reason to speak with pride about Brown’s performance in Friday’s 80-63 win over LSU when he came off the bench to score 15 points in 16 minutes, making 5-of-7 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 3-pointers.
“I went up to practice Wednesday and he practiced really well, and when I talked to him you could tell his mindset was really good about being ready for the moment,” Trumpour told The Detroit News. “When the opportunity was there where he got some extra minutes and shots became available, I knew his skill set allowed for him to have that kind of success. I’m not stunned, but I’m excited for him that the opportunity presented itself.
“I’ve been around MSU’s program for 20-some years now and this is one of the most close-knit, high-chemistry groups I’ve ever seen. You can see it in practice, you can see it in games. I can tell talking to Gabe by the way he talks about the upperclassmen and how great they’ve been to him this year. I’m not surprised they’re finding a way to win in March.”
Warren Mott coach Jeff Olind was in Washington to watch his former player, Kenny Goins, who had six points and 11 rebounds in the win over LSU.
Up next for Goins and the Spartans is No. 1 seed Duke and its 6-7, 285-pound freshman phenom Zion Williamson, who had 23 points and six rebounds in Friday’s 75-73 win over Virginia Tech, knocking down 11-of-14 shots.
Goins, 6-7 and 230 pounds, came to MSU as a preferred walk-on, then quickly earned a scholarship and has become a starter his senior year, averaging career highs in points (8.1), rebounds (9.0) and minutes (30.1).
“We always knew that he could rebound and play defense and everything, but he’s worked really hard and put in a lot of time back at Mott over the summer in the gym and at Michigan State, really put in a ton of time getting shots up,” said Olind of Goins, who has made 54 3-pointers this season, shooting 35.8 percent from deep range. “I never thought he’d turn himself into a shooter but he has. He put the time in and he’s doing great.”
Goins was a Detroit News Class A All-State selection his senior year at Mott in 2014 but had to walk on to the Spartans team.
“It’s been a heck of a trip,” said Olind of Goins’ journey. “We’ve stayed relatively close and at times he got frustrated, but coming into this year it was like, ‘I think I’m going to be a starter,’ but didn’t know that he was going to be looked at as a shooter and one of the leaders out there too. He’s really kind of come into his own as that too. It’s been great to watch.”
Olind called the matchup of MSU vs. Williamson and Goins’ role in that “a heck of a challenge.”
“I don’t know exactly what their strategy is yet or how they’re going to guard Zion, but Kenny’s got to play a major role in it, keeping him off the glass and things like that,” he said.
Olind spent some time Saturday evening with Goins and his family at dinner and now is looking forward to watching him play on the big stage for a chance at a Final Four spot.
“You have to relish moments like this,” Olind said. “The odds of me having somebody that will be able to play at that level is not great. He’s such a good kid and his family has been great to me and my wife and my family too. It’s just been great.”