TULSA, Okla. - Miles Bridges was still struggling with the pain of losing to Kansas, saying goodbye to senior teammates, the end of his freshman season, plus a hip pointer injury suffered in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Jayhawks, when the teen-ager was asked about the possibility of giving up the chance to play for Michigan State next year in order to follow the possibility of guaranteed millions in the NBA.
Bridges scored 22 points during Michigan State’s 90-70 loss to Kansas in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday at the BOK Center. Bridges, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is projected to be the No. 12 selection in the NBA Draft by draftexpress.com, if he elects to turn pro.
In the locker room after the game, he said he would discuss the decision with his mother and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
"(Thinking about leaving for the NBA) has not his mindset at all, but now it’s got to be," Izzo said. "He has to look at this seriously. There’s too much on the line. My job might be to encourage him to go. And you know what? I would do that if that’s what I think is best for him and his family and his situation. But I have no worries that he won’t make the right decision. I have no worries that somebody will be influencing him either way.
“He’s going to do what he wants to do and should do. I think he will look at it the right way and make the right decision. I don’t think he will be dragging it on. He’s not going to decide this week. But Miles is unique. If he’s not here another year, we’re blessed. If he is here another year, we’re lucky.”
Bridges, a 6-foot-7 forward from Flint, Mich., said he had not yet given the decision much thought, and planned to focus on it at season's end - which begins tonight.
“I’m just going to try to talk to my mom and my coaches about the situation, try to get some feedback and then I’ll make my decision,” Bridges said. “Just my mom, and coach, and that’s it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”
When asked what he will consider in making his decision, he said: “I don’t really know now. I’m just trying to spend time with my seniors and get some motivation from them. This loss is really motivation for us to get better.”
Bridges averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Spartans. He sat out seven games at mid-year with a foot injury, but finished strong in helping the injury-plagued Spartans extend their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances to 20.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” he said of the season. “It taught me a lot of lessons. It made me better as a person, too, and I wouldn’t trade this team for the world.”
Junior captain TumTum Nairn felt the same way about Bridges.
“Miles is going to be my best friend, man,” Nairn said. “You know he's my little brother. I just appreciate everything he does and how hard he works and wants to be great. I'm going to keep getting on him for the rest of his life because that's one thing Coach has been pushing me to be better at is holding my best friend accountable.”
Bridges is looking forward to that, regardless of where he resides next year.
“We had a really special bond,” Bridges said of his Spartan teammates. “On the court we had a great relationship, off the court we were brothers. Blood couldn’t have made us any closer. I’ll have friends for the rest of my life with this team.”
When asked if those friendships would have an impact on his decision, Bridges said no.
“I love my team but I’m always going to make the best decision for myself,” he said.