Izzo’s Lone 2014 Commitment Lourawls “TUM TUM” Nairn Was Well Worth the Wait!
Against all odds, a skinny youngster from the Bahamas followed his basketball dreams all the way to East Lansing. Emerging from the mean streets of his hometown with exceptional speed and a hard work ethic, Lourawls Nairn worked his way up from basketball novice to a sought-after, dynamic playmaker.
Few Spartans fans know how to pronounce Nairn’s name. Luckily, they shouldn’t have to. Nairn is more often referred to as “Tum Tum,” a common nickname used by his friends, teammates, and coaches.
Regardless of his name, Tum Tum has gained notoriety inside recruiting circles across the country for his speed and athleticism. Receiving offers from top-notch programs such as Indiana and Kansas, the senior at Sunrise Christian Academy (in Bel Aire, Kansas), Tum Tum was rated as one of the best point guard recruits in the 2014 recruiting class. So when MSU head coach Tom Izzo had the opportunity to offer the young man a scholarship, the 18-year Spartan veteran pounced on the chance.
Izzo’s first 2014 recruit, as well as Tum Tum’s high coach, Kyle Linstead, recently spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio to discuss the young man’s journey to East Lansing, his basketball prowess, and much more.
Lourawls Nairn’s story begins in the Bahamas, the place of his birth and upbringing. His name virtually changed as a baby, as his mother nicknamed him “Tum Tum” after a character in the movie “3 Ninjas.” Watching the movie with the rest of his family as a baby, Tum Tum impersonated the hungry youngest brother in the film by sucking hard on his bottle whenever the character ate on screen. Lourawl’s mother christened her son with the nickname and it stuck.
Tum Tum grew up in a not-so-great neighborhood. Hanging around some kids who got into some trouble, Tum Tum relied on his faith to carry him out of some bad situations.
“I always knew that I was different from all of my friends because we would do crazy stuff back home, but I would never get in really too deep into the really, really bad stuff,” Tum Tum said. “I was just like any other 13-year old or 12-year old kid but I always knew that I was different. Everybody who ever came around me told me that when they’re around me, they feel I’m a special kid. I’ve been in a lot of tough situations and I knew that it was always God who brought me through.”
Sports also provided a means of escape for Tum Tum. Formerly a sprinter, the youngster took up basketball soon before he entered the United States. His skills led him to a school in Florida, which provided a chance for Tum Tum to escape his previous life.
“It was terrible. There were 21 of us living in one house. We didn’t have a gym or anything like that,” Tum Tum said. “My parents would ask me if everything was going alright and I was lying to them because I wanted an opportunity to leave the school, but I wasn’t good enough. I wanted to wait until I was good enough so I could make sure I got another opportunity to come to the States, but the whole time, God just had his hands on everything.”
Tum Tum soon got his opportunity. Fate brought together Tum Tum and long-time Sunrise Christian Academy head coach, Kyle Linstead.
“The moment we talked, I knew that was the school I wanted to go to because a lot of schools were coming at me,” Tum Tum said. “But we just had an instant connection.”
Since connecting with Linstead, Tum Tum has worked incredibly hard to improve in every facet of the game, even in the classroom. As Linstead describes, the current senior has no off switch.
“On a typical day, we get up at 5:30 a.m. and then we run. Then we go to school, legitimate school, for eight or nine hours hard. Then we lift for an hour, hour and a half, and then we practice for two and a half, three hours. Our days are full and it’s a tough schedule, and Tum just eats it up. He loves it.
“This is a kid who was behind academically when he came to us, and he’s in nine classes a day, so he’s got nine hours of school a day,” Linstead said. “He eats lunch during class. That’s how hard he works. We condition at five in the morning. Mornings we don’t condition, he’s in there. He’s in the gym, he’s on the shooting machine, he’ll do that an hour or two before class, he’s a tireless worker in the weight room.”
Tum Tum’s hard work led to vast improvements in his game. The Bahamas native has learned how to effectively use his speed on the court, while also working on his jump shot. Coming into Sunrise, that part of his game was a weakness. Shooting the ball comes much more naturally now for Tum Tum.
“When he showed up at our place, his jumper was absolutely broke,” Linstead said. “So we’re looking at a guy who had to reconstruct a jumper. If you know anything about how difficult that is, how many reps that takes, and what kind of mental toughness that takes, because you have to be willing to air ball for a month to fix things … He’s reconstructed his shot. I’m telling you, people are going to think he can’t shoot at all because that’s his weakness. Tum Tum’s not a bad shooter. He’s a good shooter – he’s not a great shooter – but his form has really changed. He shoots it right when he keeps his balance and goes straight up and down, he’s going to make a lot of shots and he can shoot three’s.”
One attribute of Tum Tum’s game that many don’t immediately realize is his excellent court vision, and his ability to find open teammates.
“He sees the floor because he’s so fast that if you don’t put everybody in the paint, he’s in the paint by the rim, so people have to help out,” Linstead said. “And he’d rather give the ball off and let someone knock down a three than let himself shoot a wild one going in the lane. He does see the floor well, and he’s got kind of eyes in the back of his head, and I think a big part of that is he’s so used to seeing that help defender that he sees him and knows where he’s coming from and he’s ready to get the ball to the next guy, because he’s been drawing the help his whole life because of his speed.”
But no matter what others say his best skill is, Tum Tum knows that his speed sets him apart from his counterparts.
“I’ve always been fast,” Tum Tum said. “I’m better going at a face pace than a slow pace. That’s kind of funny because my game is fast and I’m good at getting the shooters the ball quick. I can put the ball in somebody’s hands where they need it, where they want it, where they need it to get a shot off.”
“It’s incredible, you can’t really describe it by mouth, you have to see it,” Linstead said of Tum Tum’s speed. “But sometimes when you see it, you don’t know what you saw. That’s the kind of speed he’s got. It’s scary speed.”
In addition to Tum Tum’s skill on the court, he has a special ability off it.
“He’s a unique leader,” Linstead said. “If somebody dogged it or slacked [during] his freshman year, or his sophomore year, when we first had him, I was having to call those guys out. Now, Tum Tum calls those guys out and says, ‘Hey, that’s unacceptable. We’re trying to win a national championship among high school teams and we’re not more talented than everybody else, we have to outwork them.’ When he’s doing it and leading the charge, it speaks volumes to your players.
“Honestly, he goes around the school all day hoarse, he can’t speak, because he’s pushing our guys so hard,” Linstead later said. “Right now, we have a very well-coached team, and it’s not because of me, but it’s because Tum knows what I want and he’s going to make sure that they do it.”
Many high-profile programs, such as Kansas and Indiana, noticed Linstead’s talents. Other smaller schools also caught wind of his abilities and courted the young player. Tum Tum was impressed by some of the schools he visited, but when Michigan State came knocking, the senior immediately jumped at the chance to visit.
“I was doing homework after school one day, and my coach just came to me and said, ‘If a Kentucky or UCLA or Michigan State try to get back here with all of the schools that were recruiting you before, what would you do?’ I stopped and I knew what he was about to say but I didn’t know what school it was,” Tum Tum recalled. “And then he said Michigan State, and I said, ‘Coach, we gotta do it.’ And he said, ‘Don’t do it because of me, you gotta go look at it.’ I went up there and thought it was a nice place but Coach Izzo was the main reason why I wanted to be a part of, and I am now a part of the Spartan family because we had a lot of great conversations.
“One of the biggest things he said to me when we were talking that he wanted to make me a better person,” Tum Tum continued. “That stood out to me because I’m a human being before I’m a basketball player. I can have somebody off the court, a father figure who’s going to rip me on the court and then it’s over with when we come off the court and who’s going to help me become a better man. The players were great to me. Everywhere we went, one of them would put their arms around me and tell me, let’s go this way or let’s go that way. Not knocking the other schools, it just wasn’t like that at the other places. Those are the biggest things for me. And it was just a family environment everywhere. It’s exactly like my high school right now where I’m at: it’s a big family.”
Tum Tum should have little trouble fitting into the Spartan family, as the young man’s work ethic and drive fit match those of a true Spartan’s.
“He knows when to take his cues, it’ll be interesting to see how that works when he’s a freshman,” Linstead said. “I know he’ll be at the bottom of the pecking order, he’ll work his way up, but he gains respect by working harder than everybody and being tougher. I think he’s going to gain that respect.
“Tum Tum understands what Coach Izzo wants and he can get everybody else to do that,” he continued. “He’s one of those guys who wants to know exactly how Coach Izzo wants it done and he’s going to make sure it happens and tell those players. Tum’s going to do that, that’s what he wants, he wants the coaches to be happy.”
The Spartan Nation should be thrilled to have a new member in Lourawls Nairn. The Bahamas native has blazing-fast speed and intangible skills as a point guard, such as court vision and passing ability, which will make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. But beneath it all, Tum Tum is a simple, Christian man looking forward to making the most of his opportunity at Michigan State.
“I’m 5’10, 170 pounds and I’m from the Bahamas. I’m not even supposed to be here. I know that it’s not because of me that I’m here,” Tum Tum said. “It’s because of the grace of God. I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t really care what people think of me in that sense. I’m a kid and I’m a normal person, but all my faith and trust is in Jesus Christ and that he has good deeds in store for me. I’m not ashamed of that. Different people believe in what they want to believe in, but I believe in Jesus and I believe that he led me to Michigan State and Coach Izzo.”