Izzo says Bridges' decision took maturity, Bridges sets eyes on National Title
When freshman forward Miles Bridges announced on Thursday he would be returning to MSU for his sophomore season, it came down to one factor.
After getting his first taste of college basketball, Bridges barred any talks of cashing out and declaring for the NBA draft. Instead, Bridges insisted on rejoining his Spartan teammates for another season with the chance to win it all.
And for Bridges, it all starts next season.
"I've got some unfinished business here," Bridges said smirking, before he revealed his decision. "I'm just saying, I want to stay. I talked it over with my mom, my dad, my sister and they supported me. I just want to thank you all again. I can't wait for next year. I have personal goals here — I want to win a National Championship."
Bridges said the decision to stay came naturally throughout the course of the season but was reluctant to tell anybody. His mother, Cynthia Bridges, is on record saying she wanted Miles to go to the NBA, while his father, Raymond Bridges, said he thought it would be best for Miles to stay another year.
Bridges was projected by many to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA draft, with the potential to be a top-10 choice. Even head coach Tom Izzo was convinced Bridges would be one-and-done and reportedly tried to sway Bridges to leave MSU.
Izzo said he knew the decision would be a tough one to make. That's why Izzo was there for Bridges every step of the way.
"The saddest part for me because it's a tough decision for anybody," Izzo said. "Miles has to think of his family. I think it's been well-said that his mother has had some dreams too and what he's asking her to do is wait about 10-12 months and see what happens then. Him and I have spent a lot of time talking about what the reasons to stay would be. ... but when it came down to it and I just felt comfortable he said that he wants to get better, he enjoys college, he loves his teammates, he's been happy here. When you put all those things together he couldn't make a bad decision."
Izzo made it clear that Bridges' family held no animosity toward Miles' decision to return to MSU. Miles had the opportunity to make millions of dollars and Cynthia Bridges just wanted to keep her son's best financial interest in mind.
Now Bridges is back for another season, Izzo said the team would seek the maximum player insurance policy allowed by the NCAA in order to protect the 6-foot-7 Bridges.
"It has been hard for me," Cynthia Bridges said. "I know I made the statement that I would go to the NBA, but I am not the basketball player, Miles is. I support him 100 percent. We prayed about it. I know God has this."
After corroborating with Izzo, his family, teammates, and former Spartans, it was Bridges — and Bridges alone — who made the decision.
"I always knew what I wanted to do and I wasn't going to let anything change my mind," Bridges said. "I always knew I was going to make the best decision for myself, whether it was staying or going. I knew I was going to get better, but I would rather stay here and get better with my teammates and become a better person with them."
Bridges will likely have the luxury of playing small forward next season, allowing him the opportunity to further refine his skills at a position he'd likely play in the NBA. Bridges was forced into a makeshift four-man for most of last season. Now, the addition of incoming freshmen Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. The return of senior Gavin Schilling and possibly Ben Carter could allow for Bridges to shift.
Despite the championship-caliber team Bridges sees the Spartans being in 2017-18, Izzo said he knows this time around not to count his blessings too soon and reminded Bridges of the 2015-16 team that lost to Middle Tennessee State University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament during the decision-making process.
To Bridges' credit, Izzo said he thinks Bridges has already shown signs of growth. It takes a special breed to turn down millions of dollars and to concentrate on a life-altering decision with the badgering of fans and the media in a modern age of technology.
With a chance to forge his own greatness and pave his own legacy, it takes a man to lead his own path.
"When you get 18 or 19 years old you have to start making decisions on your own," Izzo said. "So as easy as you think it was because you're all happy, this is not an easy decision. A boy makes bad decisions, a man makes good decisions. Maybe the boy that came here turned into a man because he had to make some tough decisions and I think we all respect that."