SYRACUSE - Denzel Valentine plays for Michigan State and is from Lansing, Michigan. So he has heard the talk that he is "a poor man's Magic Johnson," who also is from the same town and the same school. He is flattered.
"He's been around ever since I was a freshman. So whenever I can get to talk to him or see him or get some extra advice or wisdom, I always pull him aside," Valentine said, mindful that Johnson was at the Spartans' win over Oklahoma on Friday night. "He's a busy man, so phone calls and texts, we usually can't. But whenever I see him, I try to get as much as I can out of him."
For accuracy's sake, though, coach Tom Izzo wanted to set the record straight. As much as he appreciates Valentine, the coach said, "He's a poor, poor, poor man's Magic."
Izzo recalled being a graduate assistant whose job it was to give Johnson access to the court when he came back to campus in the summer during his Lakers career.
"I'm sure he was one of the guys that had to support me to get a job like this," Izzo said. "He's a role model for me because you watch him in the stands, wherever he goes, he doesn't need bodyguards. He doesn't need people around him telling people, 'No autographs.' He does what he does. I think he's one of the greatest winners that ever played any sport.
"Every time he flies in, I tell my guys, 'Don't forget, when you leave here, act like him.' "