sunny.png
Thursday December 5th, 2019 6:03PM

Michigan State helping Winston through grieving process

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Cassius Winston’s voice, already measured and low-key, has been tinged with melancholy these past weeks. A glint of sadness has been evident behind droopy eyelids. His game, until a recent outburst at the Maui Invitational, lacked the usual rhythm, high level of production.

The Michigan State star lost his brother and best friend to a tragic accident less than three weeks ago.

The grieving has been incomprehensible, the steps in the healing process nearly infinitesimal.

Winston, his family and his basketball family are trying to find a way to wade through it.

“We always try to make games or events in our life, life and death,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “This was life and death. And it's hard.”

Winston was an All-American last season, a preseason All-American this year and a popular pick for national player of the year in 2019-20 after deciding the NBA could wait.

Winston’s return and a loaded roster led the Spartans to a No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press preseason poll.

Michigan State took a hit before the ball went in the air for the first time, losing starting shooting guard Joshua Langford until at least January to another foot injury.

Then the unfathomable happened.

According to police, on Nov. 9, Zachary Winston took his own life by stepping in front of a train in Albion, Michigan. The 19-year-old known as “Smoothie” was a son, a brother, a friend, seemingly a beacon of joy to everyone who came into his orbit.

Zachary’s death rocked the foundation of the Winston family, sent shockwaves across the Michigan State basketball program and campus.

The next day, Cassius Winston, one of college basketball’s most respected leaders, took the floor with his teammates to face Binghamton. A moment of silence was held before tipoff to honor Zachary. Cassius had the game’s first assist, sank his first shot, finished with 17 points and 11 assists in the Spartans’ rout.

Winston and his two families grieved quietly until he broke his public silence on Nov. 18. Speaking after a blowout win over Charleston Southern, he took the microphone and thanked Breslin Center crowd for all the flowers, messages and cards with a short, heartfelt speech.

“I really appreciated it from the bottom of my heart,” Winston said, tapping his chest. “I lost a piece of my heart, but you guys are keeping me going.”

Winston’s heart will never fully heal. A basketball player at Division III Albion College, Zachary was not just Cassius’ younger brother. He was his best friend.

The death of an immediate family member, like the birth of a child, is experiential; only someone who has gone through can understand. Even then, it’s different for everyone.

Winston has spent the days since his brother’s death trying to navigate a world he never wanted to understand. His coach has helped man the rudder, trying to decipher when to push, when to lay back, when to provide a hug, all with the Izzo blend of intensity and compassion.

“I've been told by the people that there's going to be these ups and downs,” Izzo said. “So somewhere, if one guy says I'm making an excuse, there's going to be a fistfight, because the facts do matter. They matter. And the fact is the best friend in his life lost his life. And we're struggling, as a team, but he is struggling as a human being.”

Just as he has labored emotionally, Cassius has suffered a physical toll since Zachary’s death. Izzo allowed Winston to take a few practices off to support his family, and it’s taken him some time to get back into a rhythm.

Winston rose to the occasion when the Spartans went to New Jersey and knocked off then-No. 12 Seton Hall on Nov. 14, finishing with 21 points and five assists.

Once in Maui, Winston began to feel grief’s weight bear down.

In the Spartans’ opener against Virginia Tech, Izzo called Winston “a shell of himself.” Playing like a passenger instead of his usual role of conductor, Winston had seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. Virginia Tech knocked off the third-ranked Spartans 71-66.

Holiday tournaments are not like any other portion of the schedule, so instead of having a day if not more between games, the Spartans had to play Georgia the next afternoon.

With his team warming up on the Lahaina Civic Center court for a game against Georgia, Izzo was summoned to the locker room by freshman guard Rocket Watts.

It’s Cassius.

When Izzo arrived at the upstairs locker room of the rec center turned epicenter of holiday hoops, he found his senior guard sitting on a bench, head down, a puddle of tears growing at his feet.

“We’ve got an All-American that's probably gone through one of the toughest things that any human being would go through,” Izzo said. “We're just going to have to keep working him day-to-day through that.”

Through some coaxing by his coach, Winston took the floor with his teammates. Once he had a ball in hand, Winston felt at least a sense of normalcy, found the rhythm in his game that had been missing since tragedy struck.

Winston scored 28 points, had eight assists and made huge plays down the stretch to help the Spartans overcome Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards’ 37-point night for a 93-85 win.

“Once I got out there, I was able to find my rhythm, find my peace out there on the court and that was really good for me, getting up and down, just having that rhythm that I usually play with,” Winston said. “I feel like this is the first time I kind of had it in a while.”

Winston was in his element the next day, too, scoring 20 points while orchestrating Michigan State’s offense in a 75-62 win over UCLA to take third at the Maui Invitational.

Is Winston back, at least on the court? Maybe. Grieving has a way of hitting when you least expect it, so there could be a few more downs to go with the ups.

No matter what happens, Winston will have plenty of help to get him through it.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Michigan State helping Winston through grieving process
No. 3 Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo are trying to help star guard Cassius Winston navigate the grieving process following his brother’s death
2:10AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Sabbath buses barrel through Israel’s religious-secular rift
Tel Aviv has taken a major step to cement its status as Israel’s secular Mecca, launching a public transit system operating on Saturdays and redrawing the lines in the Jewish state’s culture wars between religious and secular citizens
2:02AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Saints beat Falcons to clinch 3rd straight NFC South title
Saints clinch 3rd straight NFC South title with 26-18 win over Falcons as Taysom Hill blocks punt, scores 2 TDs
1:34AM ( 48 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Devils sent slumping Canadiens to 6th straight loss
Blake Coleman had two goals and two assists and the New Jersey Devils handed the Montreal Canadiens their sixth straight loss, 6-4
11:58PM ( 2 hours ago )
Saints beat Falcons to clinch third straight NFC South title
Saints clinch third straight NFC South title with 26-18 win over Falcons as Taysom Hill blocks punt, scores 2 TDs
11:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones different tone after another loss
Cowboys owner Jones has gone from blasting his coaching staff to talking about playoffs even after another loss
10:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Sports
Walker scores 39, Celtics beat Nets 121-110
Kemba Walker returned from a neck injury to score a season-high 39 points and Boston beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-110 on a night the fans seemed more interested in taunting former Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving
9:45AM ( 16 hours ago )
Davis’ 41 points lead Lakers past Pelicans, 114-110
Anthony Davis capped off a 41-point performance in his return to New Orleans by intercepting Jrue Holiday’s inbound pass with 5 seconds left and making a pair of game-sealing free throws
3:25AM ( 22 hours ago )
Bucks beat Hawks 111-102 in Middleton's return
Bucks beat Hawks, 111-102, in Khris Middleton's return as Antetokounmpo scores 30
11:59PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Basketball
Virginia, VT meet with Coastal Division title at stake
No. 23 Virginia Tech faces Virginia with the winner claiming the Coastal Division title and earning a spot opposite No. 3 Clemson in the league title game
4:01AM ( 22 hours ago )
No. 16 Auburn eager to dash No. 5 Alabama’s playoff hopes
No. 16 Auburn tries to dash No. 5 Alabama’s playoff hopes in biggest game on SEC’s schedule
4:00AM ( 22 hours ago )
No. 4 Georgia a big favorite against state rival Ga Tech
No. 4 Georgia is a big favorite in its “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” rivalry against Georgia Tech
5:00PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
No. 3 Michigan State holds off Georgia 93-85 in Maui
Cassius Winston scores 28 points and No. 3 Michigan State holds off Georgia 93-85 in Maui
6:01PM ( 2 days ago )
Jones hits 3 in final second of OT, Arkansas beats Jackets
Mason Jones banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing with one-tenth of a second left in overtime, helping Arkansas stay unbeaten with a 62-61 victory over Georgia Tech
10:48PM ( 3 days ago )
Virginia Tech knocks off No. 3 Michigan State 71-66 in Maui
Landers Nolley II hit a big 3-pointer in the final minute and scored 22 points, helping Virginia Tech hold off No. 3 Michigan State 71-66 at the Maui Invitational
8:55PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
Sabbath buses barrel through Israel’s religious-secular rift
Tel Aviv has taken a major step to cement its status as Israel’s secular Mecca, launching a public transit system operating on Saturdays and redrawing the lines in the Jewish state’s culture wars between religious and secular citizens
2:02AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Saints beat Falcons to clinch 3rd straight NFC South title
Saints clinch 3rd straight NFC South title with 26-18 win over Falcons as Taysom Hill blocks punt, scores 2 TDs
1:34AM ( 48 minutes ago )
Mannion’s layup gives No. 14 Arizona 93-91 win vs Pepperdine
Nico Mannion’s fast-break layup with 4 seconds remaining gave No. 14 Arizona a 93-91 victory over Pepperdine at the Wooden Legacy
1:32AM ( 49 minutes ago )
QB Ryan spends night under heavy pressure in Falcons’ loss
Matt Ryan was sacked nine times, tying a career high, and the 2016 NFL MVP committed three second-half turnovers in the Atlanta Falcons’ 26-18 loss to New Orleans
1:30AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Japan’s ex-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone dead at 101
Yasuhiro Nakasone, former nationalist Japanese Prime Minister who tried to change his country’s pacifist policies, has died at age 101
1:27AM ( 54 minutes ago )