<
>

Likely lottery pick Miles Bridges turns down draft, returns to Michigan State

Miles Bridges is returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-7 forward, considered by many a lottery pick if he formally entered this year's NBA draft, announced Thursday that he would be back with the Spartans in 2017-18, putting them immediately in the picture as a national title contender.

Bridges got a roar from a huge crowd gathered at the school's Sparty statue on Thursday night when he made the announcement.

"I got some unfinished business here," he said. "I want to stay."

Bridges, from Flint, led Michigan State with 16.9 points per game this past season, the highest average for a freshman at the school since Magic Johnson scored 17 per game during the 1977-78 season. Bridges also averaged 8.3 rebounds, the most by a Michigan State freshman since Greg Kelser in 1975-76.

In his latest mock draft before Bridges' decision, ESPN's Chad Ford had him slated to go No. 12 overall if he left school.

Bridges said he was told he would be drafted between Nos. 8-14 if he declared himself eligible. His mother made it clear she wanted him to go pro.

"I would go to the NBA," Cynthia Bridges acknowledged. "But I'm not the basketball player. Miles is."

Even though Bridges could've left to work on his game while making millions in the NBA, he chose to try to improve in college while enjoying life on and off the court.

"I'd rather stay here and get better," he said.

Bridges said he's returning to chase a national championship. Coach Tom Izzo, who appeared to get choked up when Bridges said he was staying, will have a team capable of contending for the Hall of Fame coach's second national championship and eighth Final Four appearance.

Until recently, he didn't think Bridges was coming back.

"Most of the year, I thought he was going and assumed he would go," Izzo said. "He felt he wasn't ready and didn't want to do it."

Bridges was part of a highly touted recruiting class that lived up to the hype. He was one of the nation's best freshmen and was surrounded by three classmates -- Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford -- who ranked among the team's top five scorers.

"To have Miles back, it's going to be a special year," said Winston, who attends weekly bible study with Bridges. "A lot of us, if we were in his shoes, it would be really hard to turn down. The NBA is the goal we are all working toward, and he chose a different track."

With Bridges staying, Michigan State will be without only two players -- Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis -- who averaged at least 10 minutes a game last season. Eight of the Spartans' top 10 players return overall.

Another player, power forward Gavin Schilling, will play as a fifth-year senior after missing last season because of a knee injury, and center Ben Carter has petitioned the NCAA for another season of eligibility after missing last season because of a knee injury.

The Spartans have signed 6-11, 220-pound forward Jaren Jackson, one of the top recruits in the country, and 6-8, 270-pound forward Xavier Tillman, who was voted first-team all-state in Michigan. They are trying to land two more highly touted high school seniors, Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot center from California, and Mark Smith, a 6-4 point guard from Illinois.

"We're going to have a great team," Bridges said.

Without several key players from the 2015-16 season, Bridges helped Michigan State extend its NCAA tournament streak to 20 years and advance to the second round.

Bridges can soar for slams, but he also can hit 3-pointers and score on an array of low-post moves and midrange turnaround jumpers. Michigan coach John Beilein has said that scouting reports on Miles don't include any weaknesses because he can shoot from the outside or create his own shot off the dribble.

"There's not a defense that is going to stop him," Beilein said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.