Bound not to be broken: senior basketball players reflect on their time as Grizzlies

When it comes to sports most notably at the professional level, it’s difficult to to build a bond outside of a work relationship.

But it is also crucial to build that bond off away from the sports as well as within it.

With Oakland University’s Men’s Basketball Seniors Drew Valentine and Jordan Howenstine, the strength of that off court bond has stayed consistant to build a life long chemistry between one another.

“Being on the same team and same class when we were younger, it was almost like instant chemistry,” Valentine said.  “He was one of the better players in the city and I kind of just wanted to match his play and effort.”

According to Valentine, it’s their love of shoes and the game of basketball that has continued to keep the teammates bound together.

“I would have to say his ball handling skills are what really got me about Jordan,”  Valentine said.  “It seems like he has the ball on a yo-yo string and watching him handle the ball is something impressive to watch.”

“I love the versatility in Drew’s game and he does a bit of everything,” Howenstine said.  “ But I have to attribute my ball handling to his dad because of how much he pushed me to take care of the ball and it made me feel like another son.”

Natives of Lansing, the pair have known one another since the age of 9.  At 6’5 Valentine is taller of the two but Howenstine is older by a couple of months.

With his younger brother Denzel attending and playing basketball in their hometown at Michigan State, it has been easy for Valentine to find brotherly love at OU away from home.

“I don’t see myself as the big brother in this like many do,”  Howenstine said.  “It’s more so a twin relationship than anything because we are so much alike.”

Through middle, high school and college, the two have seen their share of success from winning youth organization championships to 20 plus win seasons every season as members of the Golden Grizzlies.

Through all of the success, one memory in particular continues to stick with the pair as they look back on a friendship over a decade old.

“The AAU 15 and under sweet 16 game in Vegas will always stick with me,”  Valentine said.  “When Jordan hit that mid range jumper for the game winner, I just remember my dad being the first to mob him and give him a hug.”

“Definitely the last 3 on 3 tournament in Grand Rapids sticks out to me,”  Howenstine said.  “Me, Drew and Denzel came out of the losers bracket and ripped off 6 wins in a row to win the whole thing, just playing with that chip on our shoulder was pretty cool.”

As the only seniors on this year’s Golden Grizzlies team, Valentine and Howenstine see that chemistry continue to strengthen through their four years at OU in what will be a bittersweet end to a run of success in competition and in the classroom.

The most memorable moment for both in their college career is the NCAA tournament run the team experienced during the 2011 season falling just short of a win against Texas.

“That whole time period with winning the league championship and living out a dream to go to the NCAA tournament in Tulsa was unreal.”  Valentine said.

Now that their college run is over, both will continue to stay close with one another and with the sport that they share a unlimited passion for.

Valentine will look to play basketball overseas and eventually take the leadership qualities he has exhibited in four years and turn it into a college coaching career.

Howenstine who currently works for the Detroit Pistons public relations department will look to continue in the field whether it be with the Pistons or a possible media outlet.

In the end, both see the opportunity to move on from college courses and athletics as a new beginning.

“I don’t think it matters where we are or what we do,  we will still have time to talk about the game or what the hottest shoes are out just because that bound we built when we were younger makes getting older easy.”  Howenstine said.

Contact Allen Jordan at [email protected] or @aj1218 on Twitter.