“Wow, I know this is hard to believe but I’m almost at a loss for words,” Cleaves said. “Honestly, this is one of the happiest moments in my life. It’s both a thrill and an honor to be recognized among the greatest players in Spartan basketball history. I’m simply in awe when I look into the rafters and see jerseys with the names ‘Magic’ Johnson, Greg Kelser, Steve Smith, Scott Skiles, Shawn Respert, Jay Vincent and Johnny Green.
“I’m looking forward to the celebration because I have a lot of fond memories in that arena.”
“Mateen Cleaves took a chance on me and this program before we were established,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “He might be as responsible as any player in the nation for turning around a team and a program. Michigan State basketball would not be what it is today without him. His toughness, passion and love for the game, his teammates and Michigan State University made him a very special player. It is only fitting that his name and number will now hang over the court in the Breslin Center.
“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, but with Mateen’s NBA schedule it just never worked out. We wanted to make sure that everyone was here to join in the celebration and with him being back from Europe, this is the perfect time for an honor that is a long time coming. This is an opportunity for Spartan fans to honor one of the greats in MSU basketball history. I hope all of our fans will arrive early and enjoy a great college basketball atmosphere.”
Cleaves, a three-time captain, ranks 12th on the MSU career scoring list with 1,541 points. During his four-year career, the Spartans compiled a 104-32 record and captured three straight Big Ten championships (1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000), two Big Ten Tournament titles (1999, 2000), two Final Four appearances (1999, 2000) and a National Championship (2000).
As a junior, Cleaves set a school and conference single-season record with 274 assists. He owns the Big Ten and school record for most assists in a game as he dished out 20 against Michigan on March 4, 2000.
The Flint, Mich., native also is first in Spartan history with 195 career steals, and ranks among MSU’s all-time leaders in 3-point field-goal attempts (fourth at 457), games started (fifth at 115), 3-point field goals made (eighth at 143) and field-goal attempts (eighth at 1,331). Cleaves, whose 73 steals as a sophomore rank second in an MSU season behind only “Magic” Johnson, recorded nine steals against Minnesota on Feb. 14, 1998, establishing an MSU single-game record.
Cleaves was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft. He spent six seasons in the NBA, including stints with Detroit, Sacramento, Cleveland and Seattle.
Cleaves becomes just the eighth player in Spartan men’s basketball history to have a jersey retired, joining Scott Skiles (No. 4), Steve Smith (No. 21), Johnny Green (No. 24), Shawn Respert (No. 24), Jay Vincent (No. 31), Greg Kelser (No. 32) and Earvin “Magic” Johnson (No. 33). In addition to the retired jerseys, a banner also hangs in recognition of 19-year head coach Jud Heathcote.
Courtesy of MSU!