Michigan State star Cassius Winston stepped onto the Breslin Center court in East Lansing, Michigan under extraordinary circumstances Sunday night.
The AP preseason All-American was still mourning the loss of his brother, Zachary Winston, who died the day before when he was struck by a train.
Yet, Cassius Winston decided he would still play in the Spartans’ home opener against Binghamton and he delivered an impressive performance on what was an emotional night for the 21-year-old.
Winston finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and dishing out 11 assists in a 100-47 victory. He exited the game with 4:46 remaining to a standing ovation, and shared a hug with head coach Tom Izzo before being embraced by every player and staff member on Michigan State’s bench.
A moment of silence was held for Zachary, a sophomore basketball player at Albion College, prior to the game.
According to Albion Chief of Public Safety Scott Kipp, Winston was struck by a westbound Amtrak train shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Izzo said he learned of the news shortly after midnight, and spent several hours with the Winston family. He did not expect Cassius to play.
“I guess if I was to be honest, I expected him not to play, but everyone grieves in a different way, and we left it a hundred percent up to Cassius,” Izzo said. “His brothers are the world to him. I’ve never seen a kid over my years that was as close with his brothers. Zachary grew up around the team so much. He grew close to all the guys.”
Zachary was one of Cassius’ two younger brothers. Cassius did not speak to reporters after the game, but shared a post on Instagram remembering his brother.
“Ima put this on here cause I need you to read it, and I feel like this the best way for it to get to you,” he wrote. “I love you bro, w everything I have in my entire body. I love you so much, if I could carry yo pain I would wear it on my shoulders just to see you happy and wouldn’t think twice. I understand it was to much, I understand I really do and yo story won’t end here. I can promise you that, the next time I run into someone in your situation ima save them, cause that's wha you would want me to do.”
Izzo also had some parting words at his press conference.
"When you leave here tonight, whoever it is — son, daughter, older mother, father, wife or husband — it would do you good to tell them you love them and you appreciate them," he said. "It would do you a lot of good, and any of the people closest to you, that you say that. You say it, and you say it, and you say it. Because one morning you wake up, and everything's one way, and by 9 o'clock that night, everything's another way. And then you don't get a chance to say it.
"So I told my team after I loved every one of them."