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Michigan State’s 2016 Class Built the Spartan Way

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the importance of Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges’ college decisions.

A few weeks later, Michigan State has landed both players.

Winston’s commitment came on September 20th, at University of Detroit Jesuit’s pep rally. Bridges’ commitment came on October 3rd, at Mott Community College in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Both dates could define Michigan State’s 2016-17 season, when the four-man class comes to East Lansing to convert the hype into wins. Center Nick Ward (247Sports No. 42) and shooting guard Josh Langford (No. 19) are now officially joined by point guard Winston (No. 29) and forward Bridges (No. 12) in the Class of 2016, with Ward being the catalyst of the whole class by being the first commit this past spring. Even though he is the lowest ranked commit of the four (he’s a high four-star, so there’s no shame in that), Ward has been loyal to the Spartan name since his commitment and it has gone a long way to help the class build. There is no doubt his commitment has been undervalued during these months of class building.

Langford’s commitment came during the summer, and was definitely a surprise one. It is unclear how much of an impact his decision has made on the rest of the class, but it definitely has not hurt. Langford does not have the local ties — he’s from Alabama — like the other three commits do, so he may not have had as much to do with succeeding commitments as Ward or Winston did. That said, it never hurts to have a five-star recruit already committed to the program.

Cassius Winston has been a top target for Michigan State for a few years now. It was a pretty significant “get” for Izzo, especially considering the location factor. Winston is from nearby Detroit, which is important because of Izzo’s ability to nab in-state recruits. He had missed out on a couple of guys down in southern Michigan in recent years (ahem, James Young), so Winston’s commitment only secure’s Izzo reputation in the state. It was also a win for Izzo considering this was his first real recruiting battle with Michigan’s John Beilein, although the Wolverines pulled their offer late.

The Winston commitment’s biggest effect would come a few weeks later. It is known by those that follow recruiting that Winston and Miles Bridges are very good friends, on and off the court. It makes sense, as both players played for The Family, an AAU program located in Detroit. With both players having flourished together for a few years now, plus all the off-court time AAU teammates spend together, it makes sense for Winston and Bridges to have become such good friends.

They are such good friends that Winston’s commitment changed Bridges’ mind, according to Bridges.

Scout’s Evan Daniels said Bridges told him, “When [Winston] committed, then I basically switched over to Michigan State from Kentucky.”

That is a heavy needle to move, as John Calipari has been dominating the recruiting game for a few years now. Bridges had a strong pull to the Wildcats not too long ago. That quote alone really shows the significance of Winston and Bridges’ relationship. One top recruit usually cannot pull another top recruit away from Kentucky with a simple verbal commitment; it is just not something that happens everyday. Winston’s commitment managed to pull that off, though, as Michigan State landed Bridges on Saturday afternoon.

Bridges ultimately had to make the decision himself, though, and that he did. Taking his official visit to Kentucky after his Michigan State official visit did not sway his true feelings.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Tom Izzo ends up using Bridges. The 6-7 forward is versatile, but he really is best near the basket. He has explosive athleticism, which should translate to an abundance of rebounds and putbacks. Bridges should be fine playing major minutes at the four at the college level, but it will certainly depend on what Izzo wants to do with the starting lineup.

Right now, center Gavin Schilling and forward Deyonta Davis should be back for their senior and sophomore years, respectively. That would bump Bridges down to the three, which is not a bad thing by any means, as long as he is not settling on the perimeter.

I talked with Anthony Collins of NextUpRecruits about Bridges’ playing style yesterday.

“If Miles Bridges spends the majority of his time inside the 3-point arc, he could have a legit chance to average a double double,” said Collins. “I just think he tends to bail defenders out by settling for [his jump shot] too often.”

I agree with Collin’s main idea. Averaging a double double is much, much tougher in the Big Ten, but that’s not the point. Bridges can do a lot of damage around the basket, and that is something Tom Izzo should notice right away.

All in all, sounds like a pretty awesome class, right?

The No. 1 class in the country, according to 247Sports, is already very, very good. But they want one more guy, the one that is ranked in the top three at each major site. I mentioned his name in that piece a few weeks ago, but I also gave a slim chance of this happening.

Josh Jackson — the No. 1 overall prospect at 247Sports and Rivals — had not been connected to the Spartan program for many months now, but that has changed. Michigan State is, I repeat IS, in on Jackson’s recruitment and are legitimate players.

The connection is obvious. Jackson is originally from Detroit, Michigan, so he is one of those in-state prospects that Tom Izzo loves to snatch.

Location is not the only draw for Jackson, though. The five-star guard plays extremely hard, and loves that Michigan State is never “out-toughed” in any game they play. He not only plays hard, but he works hard too, and Coach Izzo will undoubtedly work him to be the best player he can be.

It also makes sense for Jackson to want to join a class like Michigan State’s for what will (probably) be his one season in college. Make no mistakes about it, Jackson is a NBA player restricted by the rules. He plays a fast game, is athletic, and works extremely hard on his game. If he chooses to spend one year in college, though, it makes sense to go to a team that he knows will have talent around him.

What should be music to Michigan State fans’ ears is the fact that he is very good friends with Winston and Bridges, too.

Bridges went as far as to tell Daniels, “I have the same relationship with Josh [Jackson] as I do with Cassius [Winston].”

Uh, wow. As we discussed beforehand, Bridges and Winston are extremely close, so much that Winston’s commitment changed Bridges’ commitment plans.

Could Bridges do that type of thing to get Jackson to East Lansing? Jackson offered no timetable for his recruitment, although he will take two official visits this month to Arizona and Kansas, per Daniels.

That is another positive for the Spartans when it comes to Jackson’s recruitment. There is no clear cut front runner for his services. Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and UCLA are the other schools vying to get Jackson on board, and it seems like every school has a one-fifth of the chance to land him. That is good for a late arrival like Michigan State, as they do not have to pass a team that has a stranglehold on the recruitment.

For the first time in a long time, the sun is shining for Michigan State fans in Jackson’s recruitment.

If Tom Izzo can pull this off, there is zero doubt it would be his best class ever. From Ward, to Langford, to Winston, to Bridges, the class has built itself off of it’s previous commitment. If that trend continues, Michigan State’s 2016 class could lead the Spartans to be the favorites for a National Championship in 2016-17.


Above: Miles Bridges wears this shirt after his announcement.




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