June 29, 2016
EAST LANSING — Michigan and Michigan State played just one basketball game this past season, leading to an outcry from many fans of the two schools.
Over the next month, though, they’ll be playing with and against each other plenty.
A combined 21 players from the two schools are scheduled to participate in the Moneyball Pro-Am, which begins this week in Lansing.
The annual event begins on Thursday at Aim High Sports, 7977 Centerline Drive in Dimondale, and continues through the championship games on Aug. 4. Games are held every Tuesday and Thursday, starting at 5:30 p.m., and are free and open to the public. See Moneyball’s website for the full schedule and rosters.
Those rosters feature nine players from Michigan, including Derrick Walton, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin.
Michigan State will have the full allotment of 12 players in the event (NCAA rules prohibit more than two teammates from playing on the same summer league team, and the Moneyball Pro-Am has six teams.)
Included in the group are all four members of the Spartans’ incoming freshman class, ranked No. 4 in the country, plus most rotation players. Kenny Goins and Tum Tum Nairn, both recovering from injuries that ended their seasons, are scheduled to play. Guard Matt McQuaid is not scheduled to play as he recovers from a stress fracture.
Michigan State players have played regularly throughout the event’s 12-year history in Lansing. This year, though, marks the first that they’ll be joined by their rivals from down the road.
League founder Desmond Ferguson said one of Michigan’s offseason staff hires was the catalyst for adding the state’s other Big Ten program to the event.
Saddi Washington, a Lansing native, was hired by Michigan this offseason as an assistant coach. He was familiar with the Moneyball Pro-Am not only through his hometown but through his previous job at Oakland, which sends several players to the event each year.
Ferguson said Washington took the initiative to get members of his new team involved, and approached John Beilein for approval.
“That had a big part to do with it,” Ferguson said. “He was familiar with it, he was able to talk to Beilein about it.”
The addition of Michigan means players who are college rivals will spend the summer as teammates. Walton will play on a team with Gavin Schilling. Eron Harris will spend the summer as D.J. Wilson’s teammate. Alvin Ellis will team up with Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman.
Eastern Michigan and University of Detroit players will also play in the event for the first time, joining players from a host of other Michigan schools, plus Michigan natives playing at various other out of state schools.
The Pro-Am will also feature a women’s league for the first time, with four teams that include 10 current or former Michigan State players.