A point guard was responsible for raising a national-title banner in East Lansing, and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn wants to be the next one to make Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo cry like a baby in April.
Comparable to Mateen Cleaves, the hero of the 2000 team, Nairn is a fast, physical and heady ball-handler with leadership to burn. That’s an Izzo guard, just as Cleaves was 14 years ago.
A favorite to win it all in 2014, Nairn could lead the charge for back-to-back championships once he joins Michigan State next fall. Or, should the Spartans fall short with Keith Appling leading the way, Nairn could create his own legacy while giving Izzo his second national title, Michigan State’s third (1979, 2000).
The ceiling is high for Nairn, a Bahaman-turned-baller at Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.
Not Quite a Blue-Chip PG
Ranked No. 61 overall by Rivals, Nairn, a 4-star, 5’11” speedster, doesn’t qualify for blue-chip status. No, that title is reserved for top-25 talents who carry a 5-star label.
Although subjective, recruiting rankings serve one purpose, and that’s judging an athlete in his current form. A 4-star grade is a great starting point, but that doesn’t mean Nairn won’t bloom into a 5-star type in East Lansing.
Put it into perspective: If Nairn were 6’1” and 200 pounds instead of 5’11” and 180, he’d probably get a 5-star grade. That’s just how it goes. Nonetheless, he’s a top-100 talent of 2014 and the ideal floor general to run Izzo’s offense.
Nairn carries a 4-star ranking from 247Sports and is the No. 22 PG of his class (No. 78 overall). But he’s listed at 5’10” and 165 pounds.
It’s six one way, half of a dozen the other, right?
As a senior in 2009, Appling led the Detroit Pershing Doughboys to a Michigan High School Athletic Association Class-A championship. At the moment, he's the driving force behind Team Izzo.
In 1995, Cleaves helped the Flint Northern Vikings claim Class-A bragging rights. He basically started Team Izzo.
High school success—or lack thereof—doesn’t necessarily mean success in college. There have been prep greats who fizzled out in college, and there have been unsung heroes who blossomed into absolute studs once they hit collegiate courts.
Somewhere in between lies Nairn, whose school has a difficult time scheduling local games, according to Sunrise Buffaloes coach Kyle Lindsted, per Bob Lutz of The Wichita Eagle.
Nairn attends an academy, an increasingly popular alternative to public schools—just not in Kansas. Other than playing at camps and invitationals, Nairn has a hard time finding area competition.
Sunrise has nine players receiving Division-I attention. That's not a welcoming sign for opposing coaches, who can steer clear of the non-conference-aligned Buffaloes.
That being said, Kalin Lucas, the 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year, was in the same boat as Nairn. He prepped at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Mich.), not at a city power, which was the case for Appling and Cleaves.
Like Nairn, Lucas was a 4-star guard who received a fair amount of attention. Like Cleaves, Lucas was a blur on the floor—much faster than Cleaves—and was touted for his energy. But he didn't have the senior leadership, and that's what kept the Spartans from cutting down nets.
Sprinkle in Cleaves' toughness and will to command his team, along with Lucas' speed and handles, and there's Nairn, who should prove that great things come in small packages.
Planning ahead certainly helps, too. Credit the youngster for having foresight.
According to MLive.com's Diamond Leung, Lindsted said the following on Sept. 26, 2013, the day that Nairn committed to Michigan State.
He called Coach Izzo this morning and said, "Coach, I'm going to Michigan State. We're going to win a national championship." And he'll fight 'til the day he dies for that to happen. He'll give everything he can relentlessly.
Don't get hung up on rankings and past high school performances. Focus on one thing: Nairn is an Izzo guard.