Head Coach Drew Valentine is Ready to Carry Loyola’s Legacy

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The Valentine brothers all the time pushed one another to be one of the best variations of themselves. Ever since they had been younger, if Drew would drop 20 in a sport throughout an AAU match, Denzel would take it upon himself to attain 25. Competing towards each other obtained intense every so often, too, however on the finish of the day, they simply wished to make one another proud.

“He’s all the time been a pacesetter,” Denzel Valentine says of his brother, who is 2 years older. “Individuals have all the time regarded as much as him due to his capacity to encourage and relate. I’ve skilled lots by the sport of basketball and he’s a giant purpose for that.”

Rising up in Lansing, MI, the 2 had been standouts at Sexton Excessive College and had been coached by their father, Carlton. Drew was a two-sport athlete; he averaged 15.5 factors and 11.9 rebounds per sport as a junior, incomes all-state honors, after which did his factor on the soccer area as a two-year beginning QB. He additionally served as captain of each groups. 

In the meantime, Denzel solidified himself because the No.1 participant within the state and was nationally-ranked as a capturing guard. Resulting from damage, the brothers performed solely three video games collectively in highschool, however that wouldn’t be the final time they’d be collectively on the identical squad. Drew went on to play at Oakland for 4 years and led the Golden Grizzlies to 2 NCAA match appearances, ending 4th all-time in defensive rebounds (480) and eighth in offensive rebounds (232). In the meantime, Denzel suited up at Michigan State, the place he’d ultimately earn first-team All-American honors and win AP Participant of the 12 months in 2016.

After faculty, Drew pursued a profession in teaching and joined Tom Izzo’s teaching workers in 2013 as a graduate supervisor, placing him on the identical staff as his brother. Through the summer time, they’d prepare collectively, too, with Drew placing Denzel by exercises. Trying again, they each say that these periods are a number of the most cherished moments of their particular person basketball journeys. 

“These moments had been particular, man,” says Denzel, who’s at the moment suiting up for the Maine Celtics, Boston’s G League affiliate. “He actually is aware of how one can get one of the best out of individuals. The very best coaches are life-teachers and Drew is nice at instructing the sport of basketball and the sport of life, and can solely get higher as he will get extra expertise with each.”

Denzel has watched his brother’s management and competitiveness ascend him to the extent he’s all the time aspired to succeed in in the future: changing into a head coach. After serving as an assistant coach at Loyola for 4 years, Drew was promoted to go coach final April after Porter Moser accepted the top teaching job at Oklahoma, making him the youngest coach in faculty basketball at 29 years previous. 

Moser had cultivated a successful tradition throughout his time at Loyola and established this system as one of the revered mid-majors in faculty basketball—who may overlook their magical run to the Ultimate 4 in 2018? Now, as a first-year head coach, the 30-year-old is continuous to hold this system in the direction of success. This season, Loyola has received 12 of their final 14 video games and was on a 10-game successful streak earlier than dropping to Missouri State. This stretch nonetheless has the Ramblers on prime of the standings within the Missouri Valley Convention. 

“We have now the aggressive mindset of enjoying for championships,” the 30-year-old head coach says when requested in regards to the Ramblers’ success. “Does it really feel nice that I’m a first-year head coach and my staff is doing so properly? Completely, it does. Does it reassure me that what I’m doing is correct? Sure. The usual is what we maintain [the team] accountable to but it surely’s additionally what they select to consider in and belief in, so the gamers deserve all of the credit score.”

With that, Valentine’s affect goes far past simply the courtroom, and he’s continued to make it some extent to be each aggressive, and supportive as a coach—throughout his four-year tenure as an assistant at Loyola, he usually performed one-on-one together with his gamers earlier than and after observe. Right this moment, he’s the kind of coach who will debate with them about why Gunna’s DS4Ever doesn’t evaluate to Drake’s Nothing Was the Similar, and why the blog-era boys (Drake, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Wale, Large Sean) are far superior than the brand new era of rappers. He’ll even pull up a movie session in a pair of A Ma Maniere Jordan 1’s on his toes, which has earned him compliments from his gamers. 

“Creating an atmosphere the place everybody feels snug might be my greatest factor as an individual,” Drew says. “I need folks to really feel like they are often themselves and mess up. In the event you’re doing all your greatest and also you miss a shot, or should you’re struggling attempting to juggle 5 lessons, the scouting report, your girlfriend, weight room stuff, and you’re feeling overwhelmed? It’s okay…we will speak about it and also you’re going to be accepted.”

It’s a talent he developed throughout his time as a graduate supervisor at Michigan State. There, he discovered how one can command the respect of the older coaches on workers, whereas remaining cordial and in tune with the student-athletes on the staff. 

“I’ve all the time been capable of toe that line of being accepted by my friends, whereas letting them know you possibly can’t be on BS round me,” Drew says. “It makes it straightforward for me as a head coach and it additionally helps that my first teaching job was with my brother at Michigan State. I knew if I may maintain my brother accountable—somebody that I actually care what they give thought to me, and nonetheless deal with my tasks with the remainder of the gamers and workers, I knew I’d be good. I feel that set me up for fulfillment.”

The Valentines grew up as Spartan followers, and Drew says he fell in love with the sport after watching the Spartans win a nationwide championship in 2000. He additionally lists Mateen Cleaves, Jason Richardson, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell as his childhood heroes. Their father, Carlton, performed there within the 80s below legendary coach Jud Heathcote after which went on to play within the World Basketball League earlier than a five-year stint enjoying abroad in Sweden. 

When requested why his persona is properly tailor-made for teaching, Valentine says his upbringing has a serious affect. 

“It goes again to how I used to be raised,” he explains. “My mother [Kathy] is a instructor, and my dad was our coach and did basketball coaching on the aspect at one other health club. She was all the time on me and my brother’s ass, ensuring we had been doing every thing we may from an educational standpoint after which my dad was on us, ensuring we had been doing every thing we may in order that we might be one of the best athletes we might be.”

There’s not a day that goes by that Drew doesn’t assume again to his father’s affect and the way he’s helped change folks’s lives. Carlton was a youth adviser at Highfields and served as an assistant at East Lansing Excessive previous to the top teaching gig at Sexton. 

“My dad embedded in me the significance of being totally different. His factor was getting me to know I needed to do issues otherwise to truly be totally different from everybody else.”

He additionally thinks day by day about his personal place as one of many few younger Black head coaches within the nation main profitable applications, in addition to different Black coaches in his circle, together with George Mason’s Kim English and Jacksonville’s Jordan Mincy, and the way they’re all ushering a brand new era of coaches in faculty basketball.

“My buddies, whether or not that’s Kim English or Jordan Mincy; we really feel like we’re getting the chance and we obtained to make the most of it,” says Valentine. “I really feel further motivation to be a optimistic affect for the subsequent era of coaches. It means lots to me and I give it some thought virtually on a regular basis.”  

Because the Bears proceed to carry their very own as one of many prime groups of their convention, Valentine is able to proceed carrying his household’s legacy and solidifying himself amongst the legends who’ve come earlier than him. 

“Whether or not you’re enjoying, whether or not you’re teaching, no matter you’re doing, you bought to wish to be among the finest,” Valentine says. “That’s what I wish to be. I don’t know if that’s me being too bull-headed. I hope that’s not me sounding entitled or considering it’s straightforward as a result of I do know it’s not. I simply wish to be one of many greats.”

Luke Akinsola is a contract author that covers sports activities, music and pop-culture. A full-time advertising and communications skilled that additionally labored as a TV producer at Fox Sports activities. Previous to his present work, Akinsola lined the ladies’s and males’s nationwide basketball groups through the 2016 Olympic Video games in Rio. He’s additionally a proud R&B Connoisseur and Tar Heel alum.

Steve Woltmann/Loyola Athletics.


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