Auburn grad comes up big on national basketball stage

Auburn alumnus Fred VanVleet, who now plays in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors, talks to the media after Thursday night’s playoff game.

ROCKFORD – Fred VanVleet is no stranger to big moments.

At Auburn High School, he led the Knights to third place in the IHSA Class 4A playoffs.

At Wichita State, he played in four NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four as a freshman.

Perhaps those moments prepared him for his Thursday night explosion. In Milwaukee, his Toronto Raptors were playing on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks. To say it was a crucial game is an understatement. According to the NBA, teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 best-of-seven series go on to win the series nearly 83 percent of the time.

VanVleet came through with a playoff career-high 21 points to lead the Raptors to a 105-99 win. Toronto can close the series out and earn a trip to the NBA Finals on Saturday.

Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard was excellent with 35 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. In plus/minus, though, Leonard was just +3. VanVleet, who played 37 minutes Thursday, led everyone with a phenomenal +28.  

According to Mike Garrigan, of WIFR TV, who excels at finding obscure stats, since 2000, when the NBA began tracking plus/minus, VanVleet is the only player to shoot better than 80 percent on three-pointers and have a +25 or greater plus/minus in back-to-back playoff games.

The fact that he’s played so well, while traveling back and forth to Rockford to witness the birth of his second child, and first son, has made him a national story.

Forbes: Why Toronto Raps super-sub Fred VanVleet is such an inspirational story

USA TODAY: Toronto’s Fred VanVleet’s playoff performances inspired by newborn

Sports Illustrated: Fred VanVleet credits son’s birth for Game 4 performance

Posted on 05.24.19