Not long after Michigan State star freshman Miles Bridges made his return official, Spartans big man Nick Ward announced he’ll also bypass the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season.
Whether it’s loyalty to the program or strictly personal, the decisions of two Michigan State standout freshmen to return to school guarantees Spartans coach Tom Izzo one of his strongest teams in many years.
Shortly after Miles Bridges held a rally on Michigan State’s campus surrounded by Izzo, his family and roughly 1,000 fans to officially announce his return, Spartans big man Nick Ward said he also will skip the NBA Draft process and return to school for his sophomore season.
Rather than enter his name in the draft without hiring an agent, Ward decided to fully commit himself to at least one more season at Michigan State in order to hone his game.
“It was the best thing for me to come back next year,” Ward said according to the Detroit Free Press. “I could’ve tested the waters, I could’ve. But I felt like it was a good decision to stay.”
Ward was part of a stellar recruiting class last year that also included Bridges, McDonald’s All-American guard Josh Langford and Detroit point guard Cassius Winston. Ward was the lowest-ranked player in that class, but he quickly stood out because of multiple injuries on Michigan State’s front line.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Ward averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes per game, far exceeding expectations and showing a strong post game. However, Izzo benched Ward during long stretches of games because of his defensive deficiencies, and it’s no secret Izzo will want Ward to work on that area plenty this offseason.
Michigan State also has 5-star big man Jaren Jackson Jr. signed for next season, along with 4-star forward Xavier Tillman. The Spartans reportedly are still in the mix for two other 5-star prospects – 7-footer Brandon McCoy and Saginaw, Mich., native Brian Bowen, who is former Michigan State star Jason Richardson’s cousin.
MORE: How Allonzo Trier, Miles Bridges Returning Could Affect 5-Star Brian Bowen’s Recruitment