Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist — Pete.Barrows12@gmail.com

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Finding the next great GVSU athlete isn’t as easy as it looks

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

It comes as a surprise to most, but I don’t make enough through my Lanthorn writing alone to sustain my lavish lifestyle.

I keep waiting for ESPN to request that I weigh in with my hot takes, Mitch Albom to ask me to write the forward for his next book, Terry Foster to have me as a guest host on The Ticket or at the very least, Tony Reali to have me on to sweep up all the crumpled balls of paper he litters across the set after every episode of Around The Horn, but no one’s lining up for my services. Not yet, at least.

So to keep the off-brand hot dogs on the table and Elaine — my busted-up 2003 Pontiac Grand Am – swimming in fresh duct tape until my big break comes, I’ve worked odd jobs and schemed get-rich-quick hustles on the side.

I started a few summers back breading foxes with beagles, looking to break in to the exotic pet game. Only Boxes weren’t nearly as popular as I anticipated; they don’t listen to a word you say, and are almost impossible to catch.

I then tried opening a shoe-shine stand just outside of the Kirkhof Center, and it was going great until I spilt polish all over T-Haas. I told him I was an FBI agent as I bolted to squelch the heat, but Andy Dwyer did it best. If only I knew how to play the guitar.

I took to plumbing next, but there are only so many P-traps to unclog. I tried my thumb as a farmer, but my corn never grew beyond Barbie portions. I gave gambling the ole college try, but every scratcher I bought from Family Fare went bust, just like my bracket.

Out of ideas and work, I decided to take a job writing high school sports. It’s almost a real job, too, with plenty of office grunt work to go around. Despite my lofty status as a glorified office temp, I’ve never forgotten where I’ve come from. And I know that even through the multiple parking tickets and all the classes I’ve botched, that Grand Valley State University’s been good to me.

Good enough that I always try to give back when I can. Not with money, but with something better; my platform. During every high school sports season – from water polo to basketball to gymnastics to rugby — hundreds of games from across the state of Michigan are funneled through my desk, and with every game, I make mental notes of players to watch. The writers with the best flair. I monitor the stats, get the inside scoop from coaches and seek out the kids that are born playmakers and game-changers; especially the ones that might look good in Laker blue.

I’ve made some headway, too.

The sons of celebrities like Bobbie Hull, Calvin Hill, Barry Sanders, Ken Griffey Jr., Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Bruce Smith, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Snoop Lion, Will Smith, Wayne Grettzky Joe Montana and Archie Manning have all been heavily recruited, and Evander Holyfield’s son Elijah appears to be on the same path. One of the most highly sought after running backs in the class of 2016, GVSU won’t be on his radar, but if and when Koraun Mayweather – son of Money Floyd — starts playing a sport, the Lakers should be the first on the scene. I do have my doubts that a 15-year old who drives a Bentley golf cart can develop the work ethic requisite to fuel a successful athletic career, but bringing a Mayweather back to West Michigan could create quite a splash.

As the Michigan high school basketball playoffs move to the Breslin Center for the Class A through D championships, I’ve also been scouting prep hoopsters in hopes of finding the right player to supplant All-GLIAC second-teamer Ryan Sabin. Justin Greason’s 28 points and spot on Willis Reed impression in Eisenhower’s 61-52 Class A district final victory against Utica on Mar. 13 was impressive, and  the promising 6-foot-10 post will play his ball at GVSU next season. So will Zach West, a Sabin-esque slashing guard from Illinois, but why stop there?

When reigning Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis led defending Class A champ Muskegon up against Magic Johnson’s alma mater and Mr. Basketball finalist Trevor Manuel, it pained me to know that Davis was bound for MSU while Manuel had committed to Oregon. It’s equally disappointing to know that third Mr. Basketball finalist Eric Davis of Saginaw Arthur Hill – who Manuel will play in a state semifinal game Friday – is got roped in by Texas, but junior point guard Cassius Winston of U-D Jesuit – who will play in the other semifinal — is still uncommitted. It’s a perfect opportunity for Louie to pounce.

If my study abroad exploits ever extend beyond a day trip to Canada, I promise to diligently scout for the next Serge Ibaka/Manute Bol/Yao Ming/Saleh just like Kevin Bacon did in Air Up There. See I really do hope to one day repay my debt to GVSU by guiding an athlete or writer much better than myself to become a Laker, elevating the program, and if the powers at be wished to build a statue of me in homage next to the M.I.P. library for all of my innovation and assistance, I wouldn’t say no.

It’s a nice sentiment, if I do say so myself, but the truth is GVSU doesn’t need it. Unlike me, the athletic program nor the Lanthorn is dependent on harebrained plots or pipe dream efforts to get by. The Lakers might steal away the occasional borderline blue chip prospect like Jamie Potts or Jimmy Berezik, or produce an award-winning writer like Brian Beaupied, but most of the program’s brightest contributors are home made. GVSU’s elite coaches like Jerry Baltes (and formerly Doc Woods and Dave DiIanni) are known for their ability to bring out the best in their athletes, and it’s the students that for one reason or another were overlooked by bigger schools eager to prove themselves that so often excel.

When I’m not off trapping furs or digging ditches, I’ll keep looking for GVSU’s next big thing. Besides, it’s my job (some of the time) to deliver the scoop. I’m sure GVSU will keep looking, too. Until then, expect the next big thing from GVSU to be unexpected. To be drawn to GVSU, and not the other way around. And when he or she emerges, expect me to be ready to shine their shoes.

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

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Written by peterdbarrows

March 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Mad for March

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A six-step guide to filling out your bracket

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

Scene: Breslin Center, East Lansing – Nov. 2, 2007:

Callistus “Bean” Eziukwu collects a dish from a driving Jason Jamerson in the paint with his left hand, throws up a runner with his right and strikes the heel of the rim. The ball bounces straight up into the air, and then gently and purposefully cascades through the net with 10.4 seconds showing on the clock.

Preseason Big 10 Player of the Year Drew Neitzel’s desperation 3-pointer on the other end falls ‘Muggsy Bogues’ short, and the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team escapes with an 85-82 victory in double overtime over No. 8 Michigan State.

Eziukwu, GVSU’s career leader in blocks (329), scored eight of his 15 points in the second overtime while Jamerson, the program’s career leader in 3-point makes (303), netted 19 points in the stunning upset victory.

It was just an exhibition game, but it was magic and still stands out as one of the most storied moments in the history of GVSU basketball.

“Remember that time GVSU beat MSU at something?” Lucy Laker will remark as she strolls out of the Mary Idema Pew library with her study buddy.

“GVSU beat MSU?” Johnny GVSU exclaims. “Where was I?”

“Don’t you remember the 30-second clip on Sports Center that aired back when we were freshman in high school?” Lucy said. “It was rad.”

Johnny and Lucy segue the conversation by professing a shared love for college basketball. Johnny proclaims that he expects GVSU to win it all this year, and Lucy boasts that her bracket selections will decimate Johnny’s. The pair continues talks at the Connection, where Johnny offers to spring for the five-plus debit dollars Lucy needs to buy a regular sized salad.

What a guy. Johnny is in like Flynn – atta boy, Johnny – and March Madness is kept alive and well at GVSU. Only that conversation never happens.

The Lakers’ multiple Elite 8 appearances in the Division II tournament, as well as a Final Four finish in the 1977 NAIA Division I tourney, aren’t readily mentioned, and GVSU basketball pillars like career rebound leader Danny Poole are enigmas that exist to the Laker faithful only in record books.

Students and water cooler-gathering office workers across the country are just as likely to fill out a NIT bracket as they are to enter a Division II bracket pool, and it would be all too easy for all the “Johnny and Lucy/general population” students enrolled at GVSU to miss out on the majesty of March Madness.

The joy that can be exhumed from finding a basketball game every time you flip on a T.V. for a week, the vicarious energy shared when an underdog upsets a power, the satisfaction experienced every time one of your bracket picks moves on and the devastation felt when one of your Final Four teams bows out before the Sweet 16.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Do it for Dickie V. and all the diaper dandies. Do it for yourself, and for Louie. For all the Lucys and Johnnies out there, in tribute to the memory of GVSU’s one shining moment against MSU, and start here with the official Lanthorn-sanctioned guide to March Madness.

STEP 1: Print off a bracket

It can be men’s or women’s (or both) – whatever floats your boat – but fill out one and only one of each. Sure, there are over 9.2 quintillion (that’s 9, followed by 18 more digits) possible brackets and if you filled out one bracket per second, it would take you 292 billion years to fill out every possible outcome – but have some pride. Be confident and brash as you sit down to make your picks as LSU Shaq dunking on everything that moves, spike your pen on the ground, pick it back up and then taunt your bracket with gusto about how perfect it’s about to be.

STEP 2: Pick a method

You can go as complex as re-watching game tape from the season while digesting advanced metrics and statistical trends. You can go as simple as siding with which team has the cuter uniform. You can flip a coin, draw names from a hat, close your eyes, copy Obama, go chalk, honor the spirit of Che Guevera with upset picks, let the mascots decide or use some combination thereof. Just make sure whatever method you apply is plenty mad.

STEP 3: Make your picks

No. 1 seeds never lose game one and advance to the Sweet 16.88 percent of the time. No. 5 seeds often do, and you’d be smart to pick at least one No. 12 seed in the first round. Vegas is putting out 20/1 odds that Kentucky never trails in a tournament game, and you’d be smart to ride the Wildcats all the way to the title game. Play the odds when you can, but being smart only takes you so far in March. Conviction, intuition and blind luck are equally essential parts of a balanced bracket, and remember – you have to be different to win.

STEP 4: Show off

Once you have your winning picks in place, brag like it’s your job. Enter a pool, and explain why it’s you and no one else that got it right. Make outlandish bets with your friends, and expand your experience by doing a player draft. Grab Jerian Grant, Buddy Heid, Devin Booker, Seth Tuttle and Jordan Mickey and laugh. Most importantly, submit your bracket to the Lanthorn and see if you can beat our carefully and collectively analyzed picks (I doubt it). Repeat until your interest is entirely vested.

STEP 5: Watch

Should you skip class to watch a game? Probably not. Should you not not skip a class to watch a game? Only you can answer that. Adopt a rooting claim in a team or player that strikes you, and don’t confine yourself to cheering for or against Sparty. Keep a trained eye for the next Steph Curry, remember what it was like to watch Mateen Cleeves cry tears of joy and do so in a group whenever possible. The impact of a game-winning shot pulsates through a crowd, and can be felt tangibly through a T.V. miles away.

Step 6 (for good luck): Enjoy

There are only five or so weeks left in the semester. I say this not to send you into a spiraling panic, but to gently remind you that college is about balance. About knowing when what must be done must be done, and when what must be done can wait. So study for your exams, apply for your internships, write a letter to your state rep and then go out to enjoy the sun by working a White Men Can’t Jump hustle on someone at an outdoor court. Challenge your roommate to H-O-R-S-E, and shout “J.J. Redick” every shot you take. Make time to watch the “I Hate Christian Laettner” 30 for 30 and soak up all the pageantry March has to offer.

If you don’t stop to smell the freshly snipped nylon netting every once in a while, you might just miss it.

sports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Mad for March”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Free Agent

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

10:23 a.m.: Late to bed, late to rise makes a man a writer. That’s a keeper for the file of dumb thoughts and stories that will never see the light of day. And by file I mean plastic box/fire hazard stored under my bed overflowing with papers. It’s a productive day already.

10:24 a.m.: Speaking of fires, never lean too close to a gas burner wearing a baggy shirt. No more need be said.

10:15 a.m.: All that filing tuckered me out. Just to be safe, I slide back into bed. How do the members of the normally functioning 9-5 crowd do it?

11:38 a.m.: Time to get up for real this time. Mmmmmmm…on second thought, better not risk it. The birds aren’t even chripin’ yet.

11:42 a.m.: Alarms are pointless when you can afford to wait until you’re hungry. It’s basic survival. Good mornin’ life. Good mornin’ bowl of fake Fruit Loops. I disentangle myself from flannel sheets, shuffle my feet across the floor and check my phone. Not a single missed call or text. That can’t be right. It must be the shoddy service out here.

12:01 p.m.: Only two hours and 59 minutes until NFL free agency officially opens. Requests for my services should come flooding in any time now, but I decide to bide with time with a little Madden until they do. I wonder what Darelle Revis would look like in a Lions’ uniform?

12:36 p.m.: I glance expectantly at my phone again. Still nada from the NFL, but at least it’s nice out (relatively speaking). Just being able to see the driveway goes a long way towards my mental health. I let the dog out, and she seems to be enjoying the sun just as much as me. The only difference is that while she prefers to hunt imaginary rabbits across the backyard, while I prefer to take naps on the couch imagining myself on a beach somewhere in the Bahamas.

2:12 p.m.: The only thing better than sort-of breakfast is sort-of lunch, and I just remembered I have leftover taco lasagna in the fridge. Boo-yah! I poor a sip of water out from my Matthew Stafford commemorative cup for Stu, and mosey on into the kitchen. There’s a slice of banana creme pie tucked away in there, too! Life is good.

2:13 p.m.: Having a microwave is a godsend. I mean it. Sure, there’s a chance it might give off a little cancer, but it’s worth it to not have to preheat the oven or risk catching on fire if you ever wish to consume hot to lukewarm food. Spend a year without one, and you’ll feel the same way.

2:14 p.m.: Chocolate milk is expensive, but I place it on a pedestal above all other beverages. So I buy the bulk mix Nestle makes and cut the cheaper regular milk to get my fix. As soon as the ink dries on that big contract I’m due, I’m installing a Mr. Deeds-style drinking fountain that exclusively dispenses chocolate milk. I also have visions for a rooftop skating rink, a la Lil’ Wayne, a basement basketball court, a real movie theater – not that fake Cribbs crud – and an aquarium bedroom complete with an infinity pool. Nothing too lavish; just the basics.

2:16 p.m.: I turn off my phone, and restart it just to be sure there are no mistakes. Maybe that “can you hear me now ‘ guy was on to something? It couldn’t hurt to take a few laps around the yard with my phone held aloft, could it? I should probably make a tinfoil antenna, too.

2:24 p.m.: After thoroughly baffling both the dog and the neighbor children by treading crop circles into the swampy mush that is my front yard with antenna and phone in hand, I make my way to the end of the drive to check the mail. No letters, no newspaper – just bills to take care of with my imminent new signing bonus. Does anyone still print newspapers anymore? I catch myself; this isn’t exactly a reaffirming thought for a wannabe sport journalist. I turn to Twitter instead.

2:35 p.m.: JJ Watt and Bryce Harper have this great Twitter schtick going parodying the mass hysteria that’s come to be associated with free agency. Watt reports that sources indicate that there’s a three-team, three-sport trade a’brewin’: Adam Banks to the T.C. Williams Titans, Henry Rowengartner to Mighty Ducks and Julius Cambell to the Chicago Cubs. Finally, a little action! Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez, Jesus Shuttlesworth, the Bash Brothers, Nuke LaLoosh, Crash Davis, Greg Goldberg, Kenny Wu, Louie Lastik, Julie ‘The Cat’ Gaffney, Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn, Ronnie ‘Sunshine’ Bass, Uncle Rico, Boobie Miles, Tim Riggins, Johnny Utah and Air Bud are all mentioned in the conversation as Patrick Peterson and T.J. Yates join in, but the torrid wave of player movement doesn’t stop there.

2:59 p.m.: We’ve reached a point where we rumors merge with reality. I’m ready, and as giddy as Ndamukong Suh after liberally grinding a quarterback’s face into the turf.

3:00 p.m.: Speaking of Suh; hasta la later, man. WHO NEEDS YA? YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HERE! BE GONE! BEAT IT! LEAVE ME ALONE!

3:01 p.m.: I’m sorry, babe – I didn’t mean that. I just yell sometimes ’cause I get so scared. Why don’t you just come back and sign with the Lions?

3:02 p.m.: It’s not official yet, but Suh is as good as gone. I know it, and he knows it. He’s taking his talents to South Beach (where have I heard that before?), and that’s all there is to it. GVSU alum Dan Skuta will be joining him in the Sunshine State by inking with Jacksonville. Don Shula and Brian Kelly are smilin’ somewhere.

3:05 p.m.: It’s quiet. Too quiet. The Eagles already made waves by swapping fantasy football star LeSean McCoy for the Bills budding linebacker Kiko Alonso earlier in the week, but that just whet my appetite for more.

3:10 p.m. – 4:10 p.m.: The flood gates swing open. Dinner is served.

Jimmy Graham is traded to the Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks for star center Max Unger and a pick, just as fully matured studs Andre Johnson and Frank Gore sign on with the Indianapolis Colts. The rich get richer, and Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson exchange joyous texts.

Oft injured Sam Bradford is swapped for Nick Foles; the Philadelphia Eagles get a quarterback (not Marcus Mariota) to run Chip Kelly’s offense, and the St. Louis Rams get a quarterback who might stay healthy enough to play in a few games.

Haloti Ngata is flipped from Baltimore to Detroit for a fourth and fifth round pick to help supplant the loss of both Suh and Jarryd Hayne. There’s no replacing Suh in the trenches or Hayne on the practice squad, but there are Ngata (< that’s why they pay me the big bucks) lot of 330-pound men athletic enough to play rugby. Haloti’s one of them, and he’s not bad at football, either.

The Arizona Cardinals sign guard Mike Iupati, inside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Corey Peters, as well as former University of Michigan star Lamar Woodley. The Jaguars jump at Julius Thomas, and begin scouting Marshall Manning. The Kansas City Chiefs grab wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as the exodus of skill players out of Philadelphia continues, and Drew Brees is shopped…

AND, AND, AND…

4:12 p.m.: And my head is spinning. I can’t keep track. It’s the most I can ever remember the NFL player pool deck of cards ever being shuffled in one day. And it’s exciting to ponder the possibilities, which, of course, is what Madden is for. But Madden doesn’t always cut it, even when the player I created in my image excels. Time for some meditation.

4:19 p.m.: Where was my call? My text? I performed at GVSU’s pro day with current NFL players Charles Johnson and Tim Lelito just as defensive lineman Isiah Dunning, nickel Deonté Hurst, cornerback DeVonté Jones, defensive end Matt Mosley, punter Chris Picano, running back Chris Robinson and tight end Joe Wirth participated this year. Did scouts not see my article?

I even slammed burritos with Laker place-kicker Marco Iaderosa in preparation. I have a bag full of intramural football championship t-shirts, years worth of Lanthorn clips stored away in my firebox under the bed and a video of me throwing a football over them mountains. My resume’ speaks for itself.Surely, there’s a need for more NFL writers to shovel hyperbole on the hot stove, right?

But yet here I am, sitting on a couch in Allendale typing away, well-rested, well-fed and slowly but surely integrating myself into the real world. Being a free agent isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be – believe me – and becoming one is a near inevitable stage for the fresh out of college demographic in today’s market. Why not embrace it? You might not be able to swing the chocolate milk fountain right away, but do what you love and stay ready long enough, and the smart money says your call will come. Better yet, make the call yourself. Until then, enjoy the perks of a day in the life – whatever those might be for you – while you still can.

I wonder if there’s still another slice of pie left in the fridge?

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

Written by peterdbarrows

March 11, 2015 at 1:35 pm