MSU freshmen will face friend, now foe, in Kansas' Josh Jackson
TULSA, Okla. — Despite the highly-acclaimed freshman class for MSU men’s basketball, just a year ago, it almost added had another top prospect in Kansas’ Josh Jackson.
Jackson, a Detroit native, was highly recruited by head coach Tom Izzo since his freshman year of high school. Last year, Jackson sat alongside MSU's Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges in the Breslin Center on his visit.
Winston said he has known Jackson since the second grade. He and Bridges have laced up their shoes with Jackson on the same AAU team as well.
“I wasn’t a very good player back then,” Bridges said. “He was. I mean, we’ve been friends all our life. We played with each other, played against each other. This is probably going to be one of the toughest games that we’ve played against each other. But yeah, I’ve known him all my life.”
Guard Joshua Langford used to feature a photo on his Twitter page that included the current MSU freshman class alongside Jackson.
On Sunday, the group of friends will clash to see which team moves onto the Sweet Sixteen. The loser will head home, season over.
Bridges' equal comparison would be Jackson. Both are athletic, efficient scorers and throw down highlight reel dunks. The main difference between the two is just their dominant hand.
Jackson is second in scoring for Kansas with 16.4 points per game, and second in rebounds with seven per game. Bridges leads MSU with 16.7 points per game and 8.3 rebounds.
“It’s gonna be a great match-up,” Langford said after the team's win against Miami (Fla.) “We just have to go out and do our job, make sure we watch the film. You know it a quick turnaround for us but I feel like coach is going to prepare us the right way.”
Izzo’s sales pitch for Jackson came up just short to Kansas head coach Bill Self. If Jackson decided to play at MSU, the Spartans could feature a starting lineup of only freshmen: Winston, Langford, Jackson, Bridges and Ward.
“I just got on my hands and knees and begged him,” Izzo said. “That’s what I did, and that wasn’t as good as Bill’s. But hey, you know what, I love Josh Jackson. He’s a great kid.”
Despite not selecting MSU, Izzo sill has a lot of respect for Jackson.
“I talked to Josh after it, unlike some guys, he had the courage and the respect to call and tell me,” Izzo said. “A lot of kids don’t do that. I’ll always be a Josh Jackson fan, except for tomorrow night for 40 minutes. You know, other than that — and he’s pretty good friends with a lot of our guys that he played with. So it’s all good, you know.”
As the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, Self has enjoyed the emergence of his superstar forward.
“Well, it’s just so much warmer in Kansas than Michigan, I guess,” Self said, laughing. “I don’t know. You know, he would have been an unbelievable impact player wherever he went, and I do know that it was not an easy decision for him. But hey, we’ve lost enough guys to Michigan State, we should win one every now and then.”
The Jayhawks and the Spartans will play Sunday at 5:15 p.m. EST on CBS Sports. The winner will advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face No. 4 Purdue.
"That's my brother, and I wish the best for him in every aspect of the game in the future," Winston said. "I want to see him go far, that's just how it is. But tomorrow we're playing against each other and it's us against them, so we're going to do the best for us to win the game and they're going to do the best for them to win."