Jaren Jackson Jr. heading to NBA draft, leaves MSU after one year

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Projected top-five pick Jaren Jackson Jr. is headed to the NBA draft, he announced in a tweet Monday afternoon.

The Michigan State forward spent just one year in East Lansing, showing flashes of potential while struggling to adapt to the college game. Jackson’s list of accomplishments is relatively lengthy despite MSU’s second-round exit in the NCAA tournament.

Jackson picked up the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award and was also named as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, the first Big Ten player to achieve that feat since Ohio State’s Greg Oden in 2007. He also set a school record in single-season blocks, with 106. His per-game average of 3.03 blocks was seventh-best in the nation, and Jackson also ended fifth on the team in scoring with nearly 11 points a game.

In a statement, MSU head coach Tom Izzo reflected on Jackson’s short career in East Lansing.

“I’m so proud of Jaren and excited for him as he takes the next step in his basketball career,” Izzo said. “He was a tremendous talent when he first stepped on campus, but when I think about the way he’s improved so much in just one year, especially defensively and with the ball, the sky’s the limit on what he can accomplish. There’s no question he could be one of the first few players selected in the draft.

“Jaren’s a great young man who was an absolute joy to coach. He loved being a part of this team and Michigan State University. Everyone knows what he achieved on the court with his blocked shots record and earning Big Ten Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year honors, but they should also know that his success in the classroom was just as great. Furthermore, the way he handles himself with class off the court will serve him well as a professional. He has a great support system in place with his terrific parents, and I look forward to him having a long productive NBA career.”

With Jackson’s departure, the lone known variable left for Michigan State’s 2018-19 roster is the fate of sophomore forward Nick Ward. Ward announced his intentions to enter the draft without hiring an agent last week. He will work out for NBA teams at the upcoming combine before making a decision on his future sometime before the May 30 deadline.