After suffering a tough defeat to Purdue on Tuesday, the MSU men's basketball team spent Wednesday at the Boys and Girls Club of Flint, Michigan.
Flint has received millions of water bottles as politicians seek a solution to the ongoing water crisis, which has become a national story over the past month. In the mean time, residents in the city are figuring out what to do with the empty water bottles.
The Spartans took the day off to help club members make recycling bags. Players also signed autographs and played pickup basketball games with the children.
"It's sad to go up there and see water bottles everywhere and things that we take for granted each and every day," head coach Tom Izzo said. "We got to spend some time with the kids. We got to help them build bags and things for recyclables and we realized the other problems they have. Now they have more water but they have some plastic bottles and then they don't recycle them. So educational, interesting, and it was fun to watch my guys because I think a lot of them spent a lot of time at the Boys and Girls Club."
The MSU men's basketball program has a connection with Flint. A number of former Spartan basketball players hail from the city, and four of them — Antonio Smith, Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell — were nicknamed the "Flintstones" in the late 90s. Cleaves, Peterson and Bell helped MSU win the national championship in 2000.
Valentine said he was impressed by the maturity and resolve the members of the club showed.
"The biggest thing was how much water they had and how everybody, especially the teenagers, they were helping making sure they got the recycle bags, asking people who run the club 'can I do anything to help,' Valentine said. "Usually as a teenager or middle schooler you don't want to help out. You're too cool for everything and want to do your own thing. Those kids really cared to make an impact and it made me want to work even harder."
Izzo spoke about the Flint situation a few weeks ago, and again expressed the need for a more organized approached to helping people in the city.
"I think we need a game plan," Izzo said. "I don't know what that is, but I think we need a game plan because it seems like so many people are wanting to do something for them and nobody knows where to start. I guess that's for the politicians, not the coach."
Coming off of a tough loss, Wednesday's trip helped the Spartans keep things in perspective.
"To see what those kids are going through, it's really tough to see stories about those kids," Valentine said. "Just keep praying for them."
Omari Sankofa is SI's campus correspondent for Michigan State University. Follow him on Twitter.