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Denzel Valentine’s senior season could be filled with ‘Magic’

In case you were too locked into the college football playoff race, the latest NFL news and notes, or following your favorite team in the NBA or NHL, the college basketball season kicked off last Friday.

Most teams around the country have played at least a couple games now. The 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans rolled to an 82-55 in their first game vs. Florida Atlantic. On Tuesday, they took the floor against a familiar opponent in the Kansas Jayhawks in the latest installment of the Champions Classic.

MSU overcame a double-digit deficit and went on to beat Kansas, 79-73. They outscored the ‘Hawks 29-12 over the final 10 minutes of the game. A huge part of that was senior guard Denzel Valentine, who blew up the stat sheet last night with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Valentine made history last night, becoming the fourth Spartan ever to notch a triple-double. He also became the second MSU player to record a triple-double vs. Kansas. The other? – The one and only Magic Johnson.

Magic himself had an incredible eight triple-doubles in just two seasons from 1977-’79. He is regarded as one of the best basketball players of all-time at both the professional and collegiate level. He too was capable of filling up the stat sheet on any given night. During his time in East Lansing, Johnson averaged 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game while shooting over 46% from the field and 81% from the free-throw line.

Valentine’s playing time and production have increased gradually each year over the last four seasons. His junior season last year was a breakout year for him as he became a consistent and integral part of the Spartans. His free-throw percentage and three-point percentage both took significant jumps between his sophomore and junior seasons. Denzel used to be very prone to the basic and fundamental mistakes and that part of his game has improved over the years as well. At 6′-5″, he’s capable of bringing the ball up the court like a point guard, and will be one of the first to crash the boards, if he isn’t taking the shot himself.

Through his first two seasons, Valentine was widely viewed as a key cog off the bench for a team that included players like Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Travis Trice, Branden Dawson, and Derrick Nix. Befort the start of last season, it was brought up that Denzel had worked on his overall body of work, knowing the fact that MSU was losing guys to the pro’s. So, he and fellow senior classmate Matt Costello had to step up, along with then-seniors Trice and Dawson, to help carry the team to what would eventually be a magical run to the Final Four.

Last night’s game vs. Kansas showed what the season may have in store for Valentine. He’s going to be a legitimate triple-double threat night in and night out for Spartans head coach Tom Izzo. The best part about his game is that he doesn’t even need to score every time, because of his superb passing ability and aggressiveness to grab rebounds in bunches. In addition to his 29 points, Valentine assisted on another 26 Spartan points making him a part of the offensive attack nearly 70% of the time.

Is Valentine going to put up numbers like he did last night in every game? Of course not. He’s already a threat for nightly triple-double and you can definitely pencil him in for a double-double almost every game this season. Points and boards, boards and dimes, points and dimes, you name it, Denzel can do it.

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