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Cleaves officially a Piston

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Mateen Cleaves rolled up his sleeves, flashed a smile and put pen to paper. He fulfilled a lifelong dream Wednesday by joining the Detroit Pistons.

The first-round draft pick, who led Michigan State to the NCAA title last spring, signed a three-year, $4.1-million contract during an afternoon news conference.

"This makes it official. I'm a Piston. It's a dream come true," Cleaves said.

Detroit selected the Flint native with the 14th pick in the draft.

Cleaves said that since he was 6 or 7 years old, he wanted to play in the NFL or the NBA. When he became player of the year in the Big Ten, he thought he had a good shot to play in the NBA.

"When I grew up watching the Bad Boys, I wanted to play like that -- the passion they played with," he said.

General manager Joe Dumars said "it's been a pleasure to deal with him so far. Everything with him since you saw him smiling at the draft has been a pleasure."

Among the first things Cleaves said he will do with his money is buy his mother a house.

"I saw my mother and father go into work every day. ... Now it's payback. It makes me feel good inside," he said.

Detroit is counting on Cleaves to boost ticket sales. It lost Grant Hill to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Ben Wallace and point guard Chucky Atkins.

Cleaves said it would not be a competition with Atkins.

"Whatever it takes for our team to win, that's what we'll do," Cleaves said.

NETS: Soumaila Samake, the 7-foot-1 native of Mali who spent last season in the International Basketball League, signed with New Jersey. Terms of the multiyear contract were not disclosed. Samake, selected 36th overall, averaged 9.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and a league-leading 2.7 blocked shots in 60 games last season.

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