Hoops Notes: Ward expected back for postseason, recruiting updates
Winston Named Sporting News First Team All-American
Junior point guard Cassius Winston was named a first-team All-American by the Sporting News on Monday. Winston is averaging 19.0 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game on 47.1 percent shooting from the floor.
“It means the world to me,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said of his point guard’s accolade at his press conference. “There is a process to all of this, and when you go through the process and you come out on top, that’s special for a coach, a family, a player. It teaches him things that he’s gonna use the rest of his life.
“So, I’m really proud of that for Cassius. It makes me feel good that, it’s OK if you struggle a little bit early. What’s important is you’re getting better each and every day, each and every year.”
Winston averaged 6.7 points and 5.2 assists per game as a freshman, starting five of the 35 games he played. In the two years since, Winston has started all but one game, and was named a captain this season after junior guard Joshua Langford was lost for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Winston becomes the first Spartan to be named to an All-American team since Denzel Valentine was selected as a consensus All-American in 2015-16.
This was the first of four All-American teams that are recognized by the NCAA, along with the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Associated Press.
Ward expected back for postseason
Junior power forward Nick Ward suffered a hairline fracture in his left shooting hand Feb. 17 against Ohio State, and missed the remainder of the regular season. Izzo announced Monday that he expects Ward to play Friday afternoon in Chicago, when the top-seeded Spartans tip off their Big Ten tournament run against the winner of eighth-seeded Ohio State and ninth-seeded Indiana.
“I’m 99 percent sure he’s gonna play, unless there’s a setback,” Izzo said. “How much will be determined by, he’s not gonna be in as good of shape, but he has been running and working out, it’s just a difference in playing. And how they pad that (hand) and how it works.”
Izzo also said Ward would practice Monday, with some live drills and some non-contact work, in an attempt to get back into playing shape by Friday.
Ward has been seen wearing a hard cast on the hand since the injury occurred.
Izzo was asked about how Ward will re-integrate into the playing rotation, as sophomore forward Xavier Tillman has averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 31 minutes per game since Ward was injured. Izzo refused to commit to starting one over the other, instead saying he was happy to have both available at the same time.
“I think it’s gonna be perfect,” Izzo said. “I know Xavier is looking forward to having his running mate back. What people don’t realize is those two guys have played pretty well together. We questioned that early in the year, can we (play them at the same time)? That’s been the case.”
Julius Marble Commits
Sunday morning, three-star power forward Julius Marble, of Dallas' Jesuit High School, announced his commitment to Michigan State on Twitter. The 6-foot-8, 225-pounder visited campus over the weekend, and was in attendance during MSU’s 75-63 victory over Michigan Saturday night.
Marble averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a junior in high school, before suffering two foot injuries, missing the back half of the season. He has since recovered and has played in every game this season.
In a February article published by MSU Rivals affiliate SpartanMag.com, his high school coach Chris Hill is quoted as saying, “Julius is really skilled. He has a good looking jump shot and he is shooting a respectable percentage from three. He handles the ball well. He can pass. He has good footwork in the post. He’s just very skilled.”
Marble’s primary MSU recruiter was longtime assistant Mike Garland.