Family helped shape Valentine's versatility for Bulls
There was sort of a roundabout reunion at the Advocate Center on Monday.
Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen played against, then coached Carlton Valentine, father of the team's first-round draft pick, Denzel Valentine.
Boylen played at Maine and his team beat Valentine's Michigan State squad early in the 1986-87 season. It was a tough start to the post-Scott Skiles era in East Lansing. A year later, Boylen joined the Spartans as a graduate assistant under Jud Heathcote.
Carlton Valentine was a 6-foot-6 post player who played at MSU from 1984-88. Later in life, he taught his two sons the value of learning how to do everything on the basketball court. Denzel usually played two years up as a kid so he could be on the same team as older brother Drew.
The elder Valentine became head coach at Lansing Sexton High School, coached his sons and won two state championships. Drew played at Oakland University, then worked as a grad assistant at MSU, helping coach his brother. He's now a full-time assistant at Oakland.
Denzel's mother, Kathy, is a longtime elementary school teacher who was also on hand to see the Bulls officially introduce her son. Thanks to so many assists from his family, Valentine was chosen by the Bulls with the No. 14 pick of last week's NBA Draft.
One of the first questions on Monday was what the Bulls will do to take advantage of Valentine's versatility. At Michigan State, the 6-5 senior swingman stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds last season.
"You can use him in a lot of different ways," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's a guy who can get downhill and get into the paint. He can shoot. Smart player. I think you can put him on the block against smaller players as well. You maybe don't have to have the pure point guard in there if you have multiple ballhandlers in there, and that's a role I know Denzel can fill."
Hoiberg's last point might be a preview of what the team has in mind for the near future. Considering Valentine averaged 7.8 assists in college and Jimmy Butler averaged 7.0 assists in the 11 games he played without Derrick Rose last season, the Bulls might try a point guard by committee approach.
Valentine credits his brother for helping improve his outside shot. Denzel's 3-point percentage rose from 28.1 as a freshman to 44.4 as a senior.
With so many freshmen diving into the NBA draft, often before they come close to mastering the college game, it's easy to appreciate Valentine, who stayed in school four years and became a complete player with his dramatic improvement. Bulls general manager Gar Forman called him a "winner and warrior."
"I like freelancing and being available to do multiple things, playing multiple positions," Valentine said. "I pretty much just stayed the course (last summer), just kept working hard on everything -- my shooting, ballhandling, getting a midrange, a post-up game.
"I just got more comfortable out there on the court. The game kept slowing down and slowing down."
Valentine said Butler reached out to welcome him to the team. Teammates Doug McDermott and Spencer Dinwiddie attended Monday's news conference.
"Everything about being a Chicago Bull I like," Valentine said. "That's one of the reasons why I got so excited on draft night was because I was coming to an organization like this."
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