Mateen Cleaves talks Monte Morris, 2000 Elite Eight

Chris Williams

Publisher

Monte Morris is averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 assists per game this season.

NEW YORK --- History has a knack for repeating itself. If Iowa State defeats UConn on Friday to qualify for the Elite Eight, there is a very real chance that its opponent could be fourth-seeded Michigan State.

Sound familiar?

One of the villains from the famous 2000 Elite Game (from an Iowa State perspective) between the Iowa State and the Spartans, Mateen Cleaves is now actually a fairly big fan of the Cyclones.

Cleaves, a Flint, Mich. native, is a proud mentor of Iowa State’s freshman point guard Monte Morris, who also hails from Flint. The two keep in touch often and there aren’t many Iowa State games that Cleaves misses.

Sporting his green Michigan State sweatshirt, Cleaves, now an analyst for CBS Sports Network, made an appearance at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Here are a few cliff notes on what the former Spartan had to say.

On Monte Morris' game…

“He understands how to play the game the right way. I loved watching him play when he was in high school. He is a winner. He won two state championships and was Mr. Basketball. We actually let one slide out of Michigan, the University of Michigan and Michigna State. They let a good one get away. His assist-to-turnover ratio is the best in the country. He doesn’t make mistakes. He likes the bright lights. He was averaging six but is now averaging 14 in the tournament. I think he has been a big lift for them. When Fred put him in the starting lineup I liked the flow off the offense a lot better because Kane don’t have to do as much. You can take him off the ball and let Monte initiate the offense. Just with his decision making ability and the job he has done of not making mistakes I think has been huge for Iowa State.”

How often do the two talk?

“We talk all of the time. It’s all about continuing to win and playing the game the right way. I think that’s what separates him from a lot of guards, even senior guards that I’ve watched play a few years in college now. He plays the game the right way. He’s very dependable and that’s why Fred implemented him in the starting lineup because you can trust him. I look at his teammates. When you look at Kane and Ejim, they don’t mid having the ball in his hands because they trust his decision making.”

Did he encourage Tom Izzo to recruit Morris?

“I didn’t get too much caught up in it because I didn’t want to cross lines you know but Coach Izzo doesn’t have any slouches coming in. He’s got some good players. It is what it is. It works out best for everybody. He went to Iowa State and it is great for him. He is showing that it is a great system for him and he is going to progress and maybe live the dream and play at the next level.”

How can Monte improve in the offseason?

“He’s got to get stronger. He’s got to get in that gym and continue to get stronger. The main thing is living in the film room and being able to learn on the fly. That’s how your game starts going to the next level when you go in and watch film and correct stuff the next day and make adjustments. That’s what I’m on him about. The main thing is to continue to get in the gym. Get stronger. The jump shot, work on that. But I really like where he is going right now.” 

What stands out to him about the 2000 game vs. Iowa State?

“The thing that sticks out to me would be that play with Morris Peterson, when Mo-Pete made that play. He felt that Tinsley had been cheating on him all day. He called the backdoor play and we were able to get that win. We felt going into that game that whoever won that game was probably going to win the national championship. We thought that was going to be a dogfight and it was with Fizer and Tinsley. I watched Tinsley on tape and I would say, ‘Eww, wee, this guy is good.’ We knew it was going to be a dogfight but what would stick out to me would be that backdoor play when I threw the lob to Morris Peterson.”

On Larry Eustachy’s outburst…

“We didn’t take it as disrespect or anything like that. He was fighting for his team. If I was a coach, I would probably do the same thing. He stuck up for his team.”

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