Brothers connect on court

Lauren Roberts

Grayers share passion of basketball, lead men’s program this season

By Lauren Roberts

Kevin and Jeff Grayer are half-brothers on the men’s basketball team, but unlike most brother duos, they have not always lived together.

Kevin was born on Feb. 1, 1987 in Chicago and raised in Florida with his mother, Robin King, while Jeff was born on Nov. 13, 1989 and raised in Flint, Mich. with their father, Jeffery Grayer Sr., and his mother, Alfreda Smith.

Their father starred at Iowa State from 1985-1988 until he was drafted 13th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.  He played with five NBA teams and two CBA teams during his 11-year career.

He has a list of accomplishments, including being the all-time leading scorer at Iowa State with 2,502 points.

While at Iowa State, he set 13 school records, and he was named to the Big East’s 1980s All-Decade Team.

He  played in the 1988 Olympics, winning a bronze medal, which was  the last year professional U.S. players were excluded.

Kevin started playing competitive basketball after he moved to Florida, while Jeff started playing with their father.

“I was always following my dad, trying to follow in his footsteps,” Jeff said while reminiscing the drills his father would have him perform.

Having different mothers, Kevin and Jeff would not meet until the summer of 1997.

“I don’t really remember how it was, but if I remember correctly, I was scared just meeting new people – people I didn’t know, and they didn’t know me,” Kevin said.

This would be the first time he would meet Jeff, his brother, and his father alone.

“I didn’t really have a relationship with either one of them,” Kevin said. “Anytime I went to see my father I was with my mother. It was always me and her, and this was the first time I went by myself. I flew by myself from Florida to Michigan. I guess just the whole experience was really scary for a 10-year-old”.

The summer he met Kevin was an exciting, Jeff said.

“We found out about (Kevin), and I was kind of excited since I was a young kid,” Jeff said. “I had always wanted an older brother, and I wanted to meet him.”

What the brothers remember most about the visit is playing at their father’s basketball camp along with their sister Brittney.

Being older, Kevin was the better player at the time.

“I can’t recall beating him at that young age because he was just bigger,” Jeff said.  “I was always trying to go at him and beat him.”

After the first meeting, Kevin and Jeff would see each other occasionally for Christmas and a few more summers.

With Kevin in Florida and Jeff in Michigan, it was difficult for them to get together.

Even though the two were apart, they continued to keep in touch and stayed close.

Kevin and Jeff Grayer stand at half-court waiting for the free-throw attempt.

Jeff said, “I still love being around him to this day.  We’ve got a great bond.”

The brothers met up once college began, as they attended Oakland Community College, located in Michigan, to play basketball together. This meeting almost did not happen, though.

“At this point I wasn’t in school,” Kevin said. “I was working at SeaWorld in Florida, and I kind of didn’t even feel like playing basketball anymore. I wanted to play again just because I like basketball. I missed it a little bit but I kind of accepted the fact that I might not ever play again.”

Kevin had just started working out again to stay in shape when his father called and asked him if he wanted to attend Oakland CC to play basketball with Jeff.

“When he called me, I was like yeah, I’ll try it out and went up there and it was fun,” Kevin said.

Jeff was finishing his senior year of high school when their father asked what he thought about Kevin coming up and playing at the same school.

“That’s my brother,” Jeff said. “He knows what I like to do on the court, and I know what he likes to do on the court. It was just a great connection from there.”

Jeff was very active in trying to get Kevin to come up and play. He would ask his dad everyday if Kevin was really going to come or whether he “just talking and staying in Florida,” Jeff said.

As a freshman, Kevin earned National Junior College Athletic Association third-team All-American honors. He was also named Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Conference Freshman of the Year. Jeff earned All-Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Conference honorable mention his freshman year.

“It was a blast playing with my brother, just seeing him do some of the things he did on the court.  It was a great time for me and him,” Jeff said.

Before MSU came into the picture, the plan was to separate and go to different schools, but men’s basketball head coach Nelson Haggerty changed the plan.

Even before Haggerty became the head coach at MSU he’d always kept an eye on the NJCAA.

“I’d recruited some good guys from the league they were playing in, so I knew that they were doing well there and were good basketball players,” Haggerty said. “I’d called their dad and talked to them, and their dad told me they were still available.”

Kevin received a phone call from his dad and coach Haggerty while he was visiting Grand Valley State with the intention to sign there.

“I was starting to sign somewhere else,” Kevin said. “I wasn’t planning to come (to MSU).  I had actually stopped talking to the coaches here because I think there was a coaching change and I didn’t know what was happening.”

When he was on the phone with Haggerty, the question about Jeff and if he had chosen a school yet arose.

Haggerty wanted both Kevin and Jeff to fly down for a visit to MSU.

“I liked coming down here because it was much warmer than the place I was going to go, I was tired of cold weather,” Kevin said. “I didn’t sign when I came down (to MSU), but when I left, I pretty much knew I wanted to come here.”

After Kevin chose to attend MSU, Jeff decided to come too because he wanted to play with his brother again.

“We had such a good connection back at OCC,” Jeff said. “It was just a good experience, plus I didn’t want to go anywhere where nobody knew what I liked to do and vice versa.”

What also helped the brothers’ decision was MSU had already been to two Elite Eights before they arrived.

2011-2012 was the brothers’ first year at MSU.  According to Haggerty, their versatility has made them essential to the team’s success.

Kevin and Jeff are now wrapping up their last year playing basketball at MSU.  They helped the team clinch the Lone Star Conference Championship, and they both want to make it to the national championship.

After spending so much time together on the court, they are now going to separate off of it.  After they graduate from MSU, Jeff wants to become a coach, while Kevin wants to be a sports analyst.

“They are going to be hard to replace,” Haggerty said. “They are both playing a lot of minutes and they are great team guys. You hate to see team guys leave.”