I’ll say this up front: Mateen Cleaves is one of my favorite people and athletes. He’s from my adopted hometown in Flint, he played his heart out for my school at Michigan State and, later in life when I was working as a reporter in Flint, Cleaves was always one of the best interviews when it came to making time for me, giving great quotes and allowing me to tell some good stories.
As far as Cleaves’ analyst work on FSD, I’m aware that some people haven’t been the biggest fans of the studio show during Pistons games, judging by some of the jokes I’ve seen on Twitter during games. But I genuinely believe Cleaves has a wealth of basketball knowledge in him. I’ve had the chance to watch him work with young guards at camps in the summer, and it’s unreal the kinds of things he’s able to tell them about playing point guard. He’s not a natural broadcaster, he’s just had a crash course in it over the last year and trying hard to learn on the fly. This series of videos by Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal should give everyone a better idea about Cleaves’ personality off camera and how badly he wants to succeed for FSD.