A day after Michigan State closed out their most successful regular season in program history with an outright Big Ten title, four Spartans received accolades in the conference.
Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well as Defensive Player of the Year by Big Ten media and coaches. This marks the second consecutive season that a MSU player has taken home FOTY honors (Miles Bridges in 2017). Gary Harris also won the honor back in 2013.
Jackson, who averaged 11.4 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 3.29 blocks per game (led the conference, fourth in the nation) joins Harris and Bridges as well as Shawn Respert (1992) and Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1978) as the fifth Michigan State freshman to earn all-conference honors. The Carmel, Ind. native also was named to the All-Big Ten third team and was a unanimous selection to the All-Freshman team as well.
“It’s incredible,” Jackson said in the release. “Freshman of the Year was one of my goals coming in. Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t a goal of mine at first and I honestly didn’t know I’d have a shot of getting it, especially being a freshman. I’m so blessed, I’m so shocked at the same time. Just getting two awards in the same day, it’s not something a lot of people can say they’ve done. It’s a great feeling.”
Jackson joins former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden (2007, Ohio State) as the second player in conference history to win both defensive and freshman of the year.
Bridges, who returned to MSU for his sophomore season, was a unanimous choice for All-Big Ten first team for the second straight season.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates, because I wouldn’t be able to get this without them,” the Flint, Mich. native said in the release. “We’ve had a lot going on and me and (Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.) have had to rally the guys around. I give all the credit to them, because if it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t be here.”
Fellow sophomore Cassius Winston earned All-Big Ten third team honors for the first time in his career. Winston averaged 12.5 points per game and led the Big Ten in assists per game (6.9) and led the nation three-point field-goal percentage (56.5).
Nick Ward was an honorable mention by the coaches and a Third Team honoree by the media. For MSU, he was second in scoring (13.0 points per game) and led the squad in rebounds (7.5). He also ranks second in the conference in field goal percentage (67.4).
“I’m thrilled for all of our players,” head coach Tom Izzo said in a release. “It’s a great recognition for them and for the hard work they have put in all season. I’m obviously very excited for Jaren. To win both Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season is very rare and makes this a phenomenal accomplishment.”
Senior Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. was also one of the honorees for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Michigan State will look to earn their sixth Big Ten tournament title beginning on Friday afternoon from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The No. 1-seeded Spartans will face the winner of No. 8 Maryland and No. 9 Wisconsin at noon ET on Friday. The game can be seen on Big Ten Network.