Michigan State suffered a series of high-profile recruiting misses in the classes of 2013 and 2014 that left coach Tom Izzo wondering whether he needed to adjust his approach. Two years later, the Spartans are in the process of assembling one of their most highly regarded classes since the turn of the century. They added another elite prospect to their 2016 haul on Friday, when point guard Cassius Winston announced his verbal commitment during a pep rally at his high school.
Winston, who attends University of Detroit Jesuit (Mich.) High School and Academy, chose the Spartans over Stanford and Pittsburgh. Izzo reportedly met with Winston earlier this month, and Winston took an official visit to East Lansing last weekend after taking previous official visits to the Cardinal and Panthers (he included Iowa State and Marquette in a top five released in April). Winston also had been considering Michigan but tweeted less than two weeks ago that he had ruled out the Wolverines.
Michigan State was viewed as the frontrunner in the lead up to Friday.
Winston is renowned for his scoring ability, court vision and basketball IQ. As a junior last season, he averaged 22.3 points, 7.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds while helping U-D Jesuit win its third consecutive Catholic League championship before suffering a broken wrist at an Elite Youth Basketball League game in May. Winston recovered in time to participate in games with his grassroots team in July and finished the summer ranked No. 28 in the class of 2016, according to Rivals.com.
Winston likely would have garnered more national attention were he not part of one of the most loaded crops of point guards in recent memory. NC State commit Dennis Smith (4), uncommitted De’Aaron Fox (5), uncommitted Malik Monk (6), UCLA commit Lonzo Ball (8), Duke commit Frank Jackson (10) and uncommitted Kobi Simmons (19) are all ranked higher than Winston in the latest version of the Rivals150. Still, his decision amounts to a big recruiting victory for the Spartans.
Michigan State likely will use Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn as its primary point guard in 2015-16 after losing Travis Trice this offseason. The Spartans don’t have any other true PGs to spell Nairn, though senior Denzel Valentine could play spend time at the position. In any case, Winston could make an excellent complement to Nairn, who has drawn praise for his defense but posted the lowest True Shooting and Effective Field Goal percentages among Spartans rotation players last season.
Winston will join a Michigan State recruiting class that already includes four-star power forward Nick Ward and five-star shooting guard Joshua Langford. The next priority for Izzo and Michigan State is Miles Bridges, a 6’7’’ five-star small forward from Flint, Mich., who attends Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va. Bridges has trimmed his list of schools to three—Indiana, Kentucky and the Spartans—and plans to announce his decision on Oct. 3 (after visiting the Wildcats this weekend).
When Langford committed to the Spartans in June, he laid out his plans to recruit other players to the program. “"I'm going to start recruiting now," Langford said. "We want Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges. So, those are the guys I'm going to start recruiting now." Now that Winston is on board, will Bridges follow him?