It was a pretty sure bet that the Michigan State men’s basketball team was going to lose Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson to the NBA Draft, but Nick Ward had plans to follow them into the draft as well.
It looks like his plans have changed.
On Tuesday, the announcement was made that Ward would be returning to Michigan State for his junior year season, thus withdrawing himself from next month’s draft. The statement was confirmed from his mother early Tuesday evening to Brendan Quinn of The Athletic Detroit and later, the MSU athletic department.
Because Ward didn’t hire an agent, this granted him the ability to return back to East Lansing for one more season.
Unfortunately for Ward, he didn’t receive an invite to the draft combine earlier in May, which likely made his decision to withdraw easier considering it seemed he would be a late pick somewhere in the second round.
“It was a great opportunity for me to go through the process and I’m grateful for the feedback I received from NBA teams,” Ward said in a statement made on Tuesday. “It is my dream to play in the NBA and I’ve learned a lot through my workouts and interviews that will help me when I am ready to make that next step. I know what I need to work on, and I’m committed to coming to the gym every day and striving to be the best player I can be. I’m really excited to return to Michigan State, to be in front of our fans at the Breslin Center and to be back with my teammates and coaches as we work to reach our team goals.”
While the Spartans still have confidence in their ability to compete in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, the return of the veteran Ward brings ample amounts of confidence and experience back to a young squad.
Last season, Ward averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game, and missed just one start over the course of the season.
With former players Bridges and Jackson lost to the draft, it’s time for Ward and point guard Cassius Winston to fill the void. Winston and Ward, who averaged 12.6 and 12.4 points per game respectively, are bound to be the Spartans’ leading scorers in 2018-19. Both Ward and Winston will be put in the spotlight and have the opportunity to take flight and possibly lead the team to another Big Ten championship or Final Four appearance.
Among those returning to the team is Josh Langford, who was the team’s fourth-leading scorer in which he averaged 11.7 points per game, and Matt McQuaid who averaged six points per game.
Xavier Tillman is bound to get more playing time during his sophomore season, and the Spartans have some talented youth in four-star recruit Marcus Bingham Jr., who committed to the Spartans last November.
The 2018-2019 roster will look a little bit different, but Tom Izzo and Spartan fans have a bright future to look forward to. With Ward returning back to his team in East Lansing, the Spartans got a much-needed confidence boost in an attempt to keep their winning ways for some time to come.
Impact multimedia journalist Brandon Rothenberg contributed to this report.