By: MIKE McCURRY Very few people ever even get the chance to receive a multimillion-dollar offer. Fewer still pass up on that opportunity.Which makes Miles Bridges’ decision comparable to a 16-over-1 upset. Michigan State’s star freshman forward put his NBA aspirations on hold on Thursday, instead announcing that he will return to Michigan State for his sophomore season. Bridges, projected by many as a lottery pick were he to declare for this June’s NBA Draft, shocked the world via an on-campus declaration in front of a throng of eager students and media alike. The 6-foot-7 Bridges authenticated all the hype and then some by living up to his five-star status this season, averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. The smooth, athletically-gifted lefty displayed the ability to score from all spots on the court, consistently pairing up highlight-reel dunks with three-point jumpers (39 percent from behind the arc).
An elite defensive rebounder who plays with an infectious motor, the only thing that seemed capable of slowing down Bridges was his gimpy left ankle, which caused him to miss all of December (seven games). Bridges’ decision immediately catapults the Spartans into the discussion for the preseason No. 1 team and national title favorite. Michigan State, which lost to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last month, features a projected lineup of four sophomores (Bridges and Nick Ward up front to go with Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford in the backcourt) plus incoming five-star freshman Jaren Jackson. That’s a solid foundation for head coach Tom Izzo, whose chances to reach an eighth Final Four just increased significantly. Bridges is a Flintstone, following in the footsteps of Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell as Flint (MI) natives who traversed to Michigan State. The fact that Cleaves, Peterson, and Bell led the Spartans to the 2000 national title—whereas Bridges and company recorded just one NCAA Tournament win this season, against Miami—largely played into his decision. “I have unfinished business here,” said Bridges, who indicated he made this decision midseason before telling teammates privately on Wednesday. It’s too early to predict what impact this will have on Brian Bowen, a Class of 2017 five-star forward who was teammates with Jackson at La Lumiere School (IN) and is essentially down to a final five of Michigan State, Arizona, Creighton, NC State, and Texas. Photo: @MSU_Basketball Follow Mike on Twitter Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter And like ZAGS on Facebook
Were you thinking @MilesBridges01 was going off the backboard, too?Either way, the @MSU_Basketball 360 was 💯. https://t.co/uVs4ZcJkQh — Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 10, 2017