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Sending a message

Gators, Spartans pay tribute to friends, family

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Posted: Sunday April 02, 2000 06:19 PM

  Morris Peterson wrote his grandmother's name on his shoes as one way to honor her memory. AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Mateen Cleaves is not a map, but you can find "Flint" on his right shoulder.

Morris Peterson paid tribute to his late grandmother by writing her name on his sneakers. Teddy Dupay wrote his high school coaches' name on his sweatband.

As basketball moves beyond dribbles and dunks, coaches and players are using messages for motivation.

Cleaves' tattooed shoulder is a tribute to the town where he and two other Michigan State seniors grew up.

Florida, which plays the Spartans for the national championship Monday night, also has a player from Flint, Teddy Dupay. The city doesn't impress him, though.

"Flint, what's the big deal about that?" said Dupay, who lived there until he was in the third grade.

But Dupay's tribute to coach Frank Morris written on his wristband -- that's a big deal.

Dupay played in Fort Myers, Fla., under Morris, who had also been Billy Donovan's high school coach. So when the Florida coach suggested to his players that they dedicate NCAA tournament games to people important to them, the choice was a no-brainer for Dupay.

Last week in the regional finals, the Gators wrote names on ankle tape. In the Final Four, they switched to sweatbands.

"It was something coach Donovan used for motivation," Florida's Mike Miller said. "Mine's to my family. If you always look at it, it makes you play a little harder. You don't want to let down the people you've dedicated the game to."

That's Donovan's whole idea.

"He's always doing something to help us win," Miller said.

Donovan has used other tools, too, including having his players watch films about heroic figures like Muhammad Ali and Gen. George Patton.

"What happens if we make a run next year?" Dupay wondered. "They'll run out of movies. Maybe we'll see 'Home Alone' before Monday's game. Some young kid defending his house."

There was a time when Donovan had the players put dots on their sneakers, giving them something to focus on when he thought their concentration was slipping.

Peterson's motivational message was more poignant. The Michigan State forward from Flint wrote his grandmother's name on his sneakers after she died March 25. It was not the first time he has paid tribute to a family member that way.

"My cousin was shot and paralyzed a year-and-a-half ago," he said. "I put her name on. It was a message that I was thinking about her. A lot of players on the team have done that sort of thing."

A.J. Granger doesn't write on his shoes, but he knows it's a popular technique for his teammates.

"It's a personal preference," he said. "Morris had great respect for his grandmother. We understand that."

Charlie Bell, the other Michigan State player from Flint, endorses the idea.

"It's motivational," he said. "You look down and see that, it perks you up. It gives you motivation to win."

According to Cleaves, Spartans coach Tom Izzo uses his own form of visual motivation.

"Sometimes, like when you're a kid and you do something bad and your mom gives you that stare, he's got that stare," he said.

Related information
Spartans badger Wisconsin to reach title game
Florida overturns UNC 71-59 to reach title game
Glance: This is what Cleaves was thinking's Kevin O'Neill: MSU-Florida breakdown
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