EAST LANSING, Mich. — With just one home game left for the Michigan State men’s basketball team in the 2017-18 season, the Spartans’ seniors are preparing for their final contest at the Breslin Center. During that last game Tuesday night against Illinois, Michigan State will honor each of its seniors on the team in their own special way.
But of the team’s three seniors, none will be missed more than Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
“It’s going to be an emotional night because of how many people love Tum,” sophomore forward Miles Bridges said. “We’re going to go out and try and get a win for Tum, Ben [Carter] and Gav [Schilling].”
Nairn is playing in his fourth season for Michigan State. According to his teammates, nobody absolutely bleeds green and white more than him.
“He put his heart and soul into this place,” said sophomore guard Cassius Winston. “It’s going to be a sad day when Tum Tum leaves the program.”
Of course, nobody is more upset about leaving the program than Nairn himself.
“This place is so special to me,” he said. “If I could play 10 years in college, I’d play.”
Over Nairn’s four seasons, he has become a fan favorite. The reason why not only the fans, but his teammates too, love him so much is because of his electric personality. Nairn is a loud and vocal leader on and off the court. He has been one of the best Spartan leaders in the Tom Izzo era, and his teammates have the utmost respect for him.
“He’s a ball of energy, he’s an inspiration, he’s all those types of things,” said Winston. “He’s everything you would want your son to be or everything you inspire to be in a person.”
Nairn arrived at Michigan State as a freshman and is the last remaining member of the 2014 recruiting class. But Nairn’s journey to Michigan State is very unique in itself and unlike the rest of his teammates. The story of Tum Tum Nairn is more than a classic “rags to riches” story. No, he didn’t grow up in Flint or Detroit; Nairn comes from an entirely different country.
Nairn grew up in Nassau, which is located the Bahamian island of New Providence. Although Nassau is a popular tourist destination and home to a number of resorts and celebrity vacation homes, many of the island’s residents struggle with poverty and high crime rates. Last year, Nairn and his teammates traveled back to Nassau as part of their trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
“When I showed them my first basketball court, it wasn’t really a basketball court. It was dirt and rocks and glass bottles everywhere. And it was on the side of a little house, an abandoned building with a crate,” said Nairn Jr. “You couldn’t shoot on it, you had to dunk because I had no backboard.”
Nairn grew up in a one-room house on the clustered island. Fortunately, he was able to come to the United States a decade ago to pursue his dreams.
“Just to show them the house I grew up in, where I had my second basketball court, I think they got a better understanding of why I am the way that I am.” said Nairn.
Like much of Nassau’s residents, Nairn grew up less fortunate. The trip really helped his teammates gain a better understanding of why Nairn is so thankful to have ended up playing basketball at Michigan State.
“Where I’m from, you know, kids don’t get the opportunity to do what I’ve done in my life time,” said Nairn Jr. “And God has continued to bless me.”
Nairn is determined to make the most of his opportunity in the United States.
“I really do live every day I get to see like it’s my last,” said Nairn Jr. “I really practice that way. I’ve never taken a play off since I’ve been here, I’ve never taken a practice off, i’ve never missed a rep in the weight room, I’ve never missed a sprint. If you can do that in basketball, you can do that in your life.”
Nairn is not expected to be selected in the NBA draft in June. As far as what’s next for the senior after college remains up in the air. However, Nairn has tossed around the idea of coaching basketball.
“I want to be the head coach here one day,” said Nairn. “If I coach, it would definitely be here.”
Only time will tell if he will be sitting in the same position as Izzo one day, but one thing is for certain: he most definitely has intangibles that make up a great coach.