Nick Ward Makes Smart Decision, Will Return For Junior Season

Nick Ward Makes Smart Decision, Will Return For Junior Season

Basketball

Nick Ward Makes Smart Decision, Will Return For Junior Season

Spartan makes smart decision, resists temptation to give NBA a shot.  By returning to Michigan State, Ward demonstrates much more than the maturity his decision illustrates.

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It’s possible that some readers of SpartansWire don’t even know what the name Marcus Taylor means to the Michigan State Basketball.

After Nick Ward’s mature decision to return to Michigan State for his junior season after a smart and thorough examination of his NBA prospects, we are assured that Ward will not repeat the mistakes made by Marcus Taylor.

Taylor, of course, was a phenom recruit – a McDonald’s All American as a high school blue chipper who was going to be the next Magic Johnson – who played two pretty good seasons for the Spartans, was poised to elevate his game and, by extension, put Tom Izzo’s program into a strong position to win a second national championship.

However, for reasons that remain unclear, Taylor chose to enter the NBA Draft after his sophomore season.

Despite being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2002 NBA Draft, Taylor never played in a NBA regular season game after that initial Summer, he bounced around from the CBA to Greece to France to the NBA Developmental League to Germany and back to the NBA Developmental League, and then officially retired from the game in 2011 after a lot of toiling.

Happily, Taylor now has a successful training business in Michigan – and we, of course, wish for nothing but the best for the former Spartan.

However, Taylor’s is a cautionary tale and Nick Ward, even if he didn’t consider the Taylor story, is benefitting from Taylor’s choices.

Had Taylor listened to the folks who were giving him the guidance that was for his own best interests and not to those who saw Taylor as a tool to be used for their own personal gain, he would have continued to grow his game and play two more seasons at Michigan State in order to further prepare himself and avoid the pitfall that he immediately fell into.

Nick Ward should be commended for doing everything the right way throughout this process.

Ward resisted the urge to hire an agent.

Ward listened to Tom Izzo as Izzo helped get the best and most candid feedback from NBA teams and individuals in order to give Ward the most accurate information all for the purposes of making a decision based on understanding the reality of the situation.

As a result, Nick Ward should feel great about himself and his decision to come back to Michigan State for his junior season.

And, Ward should feel great about the way he’s represented himself in a way that he’ll benefit from one year from right now when he can tap right back into all of the NBA resources he leveraged over these last few weeks.

It says here that Nick Ward understands exactly what he needs to do to elevate his “stock” in the eyes of the NBA.

It also says here that one year from right now, Nick Ward’s stock will be much higher and NBA front offices will have his name all over their white boards in their draft war rooms.

And it also says here that Tom Izzo’s 2018/2019 team just got a major jolt and can set goals that might not have seemed as realistic just a few days ago.

Winners?

The 2018/2019 Michigan State Spartans.

Tom Izzo.

Nick Ward’s Spartan buddies.

Nick Ward’s family.

And, most importantly, Nick Ward.

Good stuff, Ward-O.

Time to get right back into the gym and work hard – and you can do it knowing that you have the full support of far more Spartans than you probably even realize.

Nick Ward returning to Michigan State for junior season

Michigan State has already lost Jaren Jackson Jr.and Miles Bridges to the NBA Draft.

But Nick Ward won’t be following suit.

Ward, a 6-foot-8 big man, announced on Tuesday that he will withdraw his name from draft consideration and return to Michigan State for his junior season.

“It was a great opportunity for me to go through the process and I’m grateful for the feedback I received from NBA teams,” Ward said in a statement. “It is my dream to play in the NBA and I’ve learned a lot through my workouts and interviews that will help me when I am ready to make that next step.

“I know what I need to work on and I’m committed to coming to the gym every day and striving to be the best player I can be. I’m really excited to return to Michigan State, to be in front of our fans at the Breslin Center and to be back with my teammates and coaches as we work to reach our team goals.”

Ward declared for next month’s NBA Draft but did not hire an agent, giving him the chance to test his pro prospects and gain feedback from NBA teams up until Wednesday’s early entrant deadline.

“I’m glad that Nick had the opportunity to go through the process and was able to receive feedback from NBA teams,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “It was a great opportunity for him to explore his draft stock and to see what he needs to work on in order to play at the highest level. After talking to several different teams there were many positives from both his workouts and his interviews, but each team gave him some suggestions for things to work on this summer as he strives to reach his full potential.

“We’re very excited to have Nick back and look forward to him helping to lead our team in the successful ways he has since coming to Michigan State. Nick has been a valuable member of our program and I think this experience will not only be helpful to him, but others on our team striving to reach the same dreams and goals.”

More: Michigan State basketball recruits offer promise of staying power

It might’ve seemed like a clear decision for Ward, considering he did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine. However, he has had several workouts with NBA teams, including the Pistons, meaning teams are at least interested in seeing what Ward could provide.

Getting drafted, however, seemed like a long shot for Ward. Forget that he doesn’t show up on most mock drafts, but the odds grew increasingly long when he did not receive a combine invite.

Since the NCAA altered the NBA Draft rules for underclassmen in 2016 — allowing players to test the draft waters and return to school as long as they didn’t hire an agent — 255 college players have declared early the past two drafts.

Of the 255, 160 didn’t receive an invitation to the combine. The majority (115) who faced this situation withdrew their name from draft consideration and returned to school, while 45 opted to stay in the draft. None of those 45 players were drafted.

Since Ward would’ve been rolling the dice on his NBA future if he stayed in the draft, the easy choice, it seemed, was be to return to the Spartans where he averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore.

With Ward back, the Spartans return three starters after losing lottery picks Jackson and Bridges, giving them a reliable scoring threat on the block. But as efficient as Ward was offensively in less than 20 minutes a game, there are things he’ll need to improve, namely his ball-screen defense and developing his mid-range jump shot.

His return also solidifies Michigan State’s frontcourt as Xavier Tillman is coming off a strong finish to his freshman season and would share time with Ward. Add in incoming freshman Marcus Bingham and the Spartans will have options up front, along with versatile senior Kenny Goins.

Without Ward, the Spartans would’ve expected to compete for a second straight Big Ten title. But with him back, it seems those chances improve significantly.

“I like the roster we have,” Izzo said after the Spartans were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. “I think you saw a lot out of (Tillman). … I think Nick is gonna get better. Cassius (Winston) has gotten a lot better in the last month, a lot better. (Joshua) Langford has gotten lot better.

“I woudn’t feel sorry for my roster. I like what we’ve got coming in, I like what we’ve got coming back.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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