The Michigan State fans burned by Jabari Parker’s decision to sign with Duke earned a close-up view of the next Chicago prospect heavily wooed by coach Tom Izzo.
Cliff Alexander did not disappoint.
Curie’s 6-9 junior star scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and added 15 rebounds and six blocked shots as the No. 8 Condors survived a slow start to knock out host Muskegon (Mich.) 68-55 in the marquee game of the Muskegon Basketball Showcase on Saturday.
Alexander said Izzo personally contacts him twice a week, typically with text messages, reiterating the school’s interest in the junior rated No. 4 in the country by the recruiting site Rivals.
“I just did what I normally do, go out and play hard,” Alexander said. With assistant coaches from Michigan State and other programs on view, Alexander did not disappoint. He also had a lot of help.
Senior guard Marcellis Davis drilled three three-pointers in scoring 15 points for the Condors (8-5). He scored eight points in the second quarter that helped Curie reverse a five-point deficit in leading 27-24 at the break.
Curie managed just five points in the first half.
“Coach said that I’m a shooter, and I need to take the shots when they’re open,” Davis said. His backcourt mate, senior guard Demarcus Richardson, added nine points, six assists and two steals.
“We’ve made a lot of improvement since the [team’s 0-3 start],” he said. “We have great chemistry and we’re getting more comfortable all the time.”
Sophomore Joshua Stamps also registered another impressive showing. Stamps scored 11 points and added eight rebounds. Most important, Stamps scored the final six points of the third quarter on two putbacks and a gorgeous baseline jumper that pushed the Condors to a 48-40 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Sparked by Alexander getting a technical foul for hanging on the rim after one of his five dunks, the Big Reds (3-4) cut a seven-point deficit to just two points late during the quarter. “After [the technical], coach just said to dominate,” Alexander said.
Stamps continued his hot hand with a terrific penetration move and dish to Alexander for another dunk to start the fourth quarter. Muskegon never seriously threatened in the final seven minutes.
“We’re an inside/outside team, and the shots that weren’t falling in the first half because we didn’t have the patience we started knocking down,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said.
“It took us a little while to get used to them. They were playing a gimmick defense that we thought as man but it was really a zone, and so we ran a lot of our man plays, but once we figured that out, we played much better.”
Joeviair Kennedy scored 19 points for the Big Reds.