Loyola Chicago’s Drew Valentine to Participate in Familiar Michigan State Program in Battle 4 Atlantis

EAST LANSING – Drew Valentine grew up attending Michigan State games with his father and brother, clapping in the stands and collecting autographs afterwards.

He helped the program reach the 2015 Final Four as a member of its coaching staff after his own career as a college basketball player.

Now for the first time he will be the head coach in hopes of removing the program he grew up cheering for.

In his fifth game as head coach of Loyola Chicago, Valentine faces Michigan State in a first round match at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday (noon, ESPN).

As the son of a former Michigan state player and brother of another – former Spartans All-American Denzel Valentine – faced the Spartans on his coaching debut on a big basketball stage university makes a lot of sense to Valentine.

“I grew up around the Michigan state program,” Valentine said Tuesday.

Valentine became Division 1 basketball’s youngest head coach earlier this year when he was hired to replace Porter Moser as Ramblers coach.

After leaving the state of Michigan in 2015 after two seasons as a graduate assistant, Valentine spent two years as an assistant coach at Oakland and then joined the staff at Loyola. There, he helped the Ramblers qualify for the 2018 Final Four and 2021 Sweet 16 while winning at least 20 games for four consecutive seasons.

When Moser left for Oklahoma after the 2020-21 season, Valentine was raised to the role of chef at 29.

As he worked out his own schedule over the past six months, Valentine said he took a lot with him from his days at Michigan State.

“One of the most important things I’ve taken is to make it a family,” Valentine said. “The old players are coming back, the current players, the current coaches, it’s like a big family. That’s the way we try to do things here at Loyola.

“I learned so many lessons. I learned how much sacrifice you have to put into this thing to be successful. I learned some things about being a great defensive team, tenacity. I have seen how hard it is for guys who may not be considered NBA players to be turned into pros.

Loyola returns four fifth-year seniors and loses just one starter to forward Cameron Krutwig, who averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game last year. Among the Ramblers’ returning players is Lucas Williamson, the Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year. The team also added the transfer of Princeton Ryan Schweiger, who came off the bench to lead the team with 14.8 points per game in just 18 minutes per game.

Through four games against a lower level competition, a change has emerged in Valentine’s tenure: The Ramblers are shooting a lot more than 3 points and doing more. At 45.4%, Loyola reached 3 points at the fourth best rate in the country.

After a game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday in which Tom Izzo did not feel his team was adequately defending the 3-point line, taking out the shooters will be key against Loyola.

“We had defended the 3 pretty well and I think we started to play the score a bit, we had been a bit lax,” said Izzo.

Michigan State takes a three-game winning streak against the Bahamas, with all three wins coming from at least 20 points.

For Izzo, it will be the second game in a row he faces a former assistant, after Michigan State defeated Eastern Michigan and Stan Heath on Saturday.

He will now have to face a former staff member for the second game in a row, which he admits he doesn’t like too much.

“It’s still bittersweet, but at the same time, I can love it for 30 games and not for one,” Izzo said.

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