The Michigan State men’s basketball team is certainly going to have a different look heading into next season. Both MSU sophomores Miles Bridges and Nick Ward both declared for the NBA Draft late last month and on Monday, freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. decided to follow suit.
DEAR SPARTAN NATION…❤️ pic.twitter.com/iZaijMnfL0
— Jaren Jackson Jr. (@therealjnari_) April 2, 2018
Jackson, a former 5-star power forward and top-10 high school player nationally, was a dynamite two-way player for MSU this season, averaging 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in 35 games. He was an elite defender down low, setting a new program-record with 106 blocks and leading the Big Ten with 3.0 per game. Jackson was also a legitimate threat from outside, shooting just under 40 percent on his 96 attempts from three-point land.
However, Jackson only averaged just over 21 minutes per contest for Michigan State, largely due to the fact that he found himself in foul trouble frequently. Still, the native of Carmel, Indiana earned multiple conference honors at season’s end, being named both the freshman of the year and defensive player of the year.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo shared his thoughts on Jackson’s decision to go pro:
“I’m so proud of Jaren and excited for him as he takes the next step in his basketball career,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “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.”
Jackson joins Bridges, who declared on March 28, and Ward, who echoed Bridges’ decision one day later, as Spartans to forego their remaining college eligibility and pursue the NBA route. Ward, however, has decided not to hire an agent at the time, opening the door for a return to Michigan State.
Jackson’s decision comes just days after his father, Jaren Sr., publicly said that there was no definitive timetable for the younger Jackson to make a decision. Jaren Jr. comes from a true basketball family. The elder Jackson is a Georgetown product and played professionally for 13 seasons. Jaren’s mother, Terri, is the director of operations for the WNBA Players Association.
In terms of NBA Draft projections, Jackson has been a consensus lottery pick, likely a top-5 pick, in the eyes of many throughout the season, and is easily the most surefire of the three Spartans to declare for the draft. While he has all the tools and a very athletic body that will fill out as he ages, Jackson is still incredibly raw and will need grooming. Still, he’s perceived as the safest best to pan out in the NBA.