It has been an up and down season for Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr and his Michigan State Spartans, but the freshman guard has found a spot in the Spartans lineup while his team is in the midst of a four-game win streak as the regular season winds down.
Nairn has started the last four games – all wins – for the Spartans and averaged 31 minutes on the floor as they improved to third in the Big 10 at 19-8 overall, 10-4 in conference play.“He does his job,” head coach Tom Izzo said in a press conference last week. “He guards, he runs our break and he gets the ball to shooters. And if nothing else is there and the shot clock runs down he steps up and hits a three. That’s kind of how his role has been.”
The Spartans look to continue their win streak 7pm tonight (local time) when they face the Minnesota Golden Gophers at home.During the four-game span, Nairn had arguably the best all-around game of his young collegiate career in a 59-56 upset win over the No.23 Ohio State Buckeyes.
He went 3-3 from the field, scored seven points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in 36 minutes. Nairn also made his first NCAA three-pointer in the contest.
Known for his speed, passing ability, athleticism and knack for getting to the rim, his jumpshot has been one of the areas in which critics noted he needs to improve.“That three-pointer was diagramed. We put that in last night and called it ‘sneak attack.’ When he shot it, it was one of those oh shhhh – nice shot. But, you know what, he has improved. 6:30 every morning, you want to see him, he’s in there.With Nairn in the starting lineup, senior guard and second leading scorer Travis Trice has moved to the bench.
“What we’re trying to do is figure out how to put our players in the best position to be successful,” Izzo said. “He can get from one end to the other and I think what happens is guys run because they know he is going to get it to them. I think it also frees up Trice a little bit, not being as rugged of a kid, it frees him up not having to do that every play so Tum brings that dimension to us.”Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta noted Nairn’s defensive effort on Wooden Award candidate D’Angelo Russell.
“Obviously, he’s a very quick point guard. I think from the standpoint of what he did, he did a great job running. I thought the physicality with D’Angelo (Russell) got him a little bit,” Matta said.
On the season, Nairn is averaging 2.3 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game. Heading into the season, Nairn was a popular topic of discussion for the Spartans.
His leadership skills on and off the floor have some of the traits that have led to Nairn having an immediate impact on the Spartans and iconic coach Tom Izzo.
“He’s given us just what I thought he’d give us. He has incredible leadership. He’s brought some toughness. When Draymond Green leaves here and says, if there’s ever a freshman that should be a captain, it’s him. That’s about as good a compliment as you can get,” Izzo said.
Speaking with the Tribune prior to the season, Nairn remained optimistic about his team’s postseason opportunities. The Spartans began ranked at No.18 in the preseason, fell out of favour with a few uncharacteristic losses, but now stand just outside the Associated Press Top 25.“I think that as long as we continue to have the same goal to be the best we can be everyday then everything will take care of itself,” Nairn said. “Guys have been working hard. The seniors have been helping the freshmen so much and we appreciate them for that. Like I said before, if we keep the same goal, everything will be alright.”A former CR Walker Knight, Nairn was also a member of the Bahamian national team at the 2011 Centrobasket U-17 tournament when he averaged a team high 16.2 points per game. He also finished with 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. He finished his high school career with the Sunrise Christian Academy Buffaloes in Bel Aire, Kansas.