Nick Ward's time at Michigan State appears to have come to an end.
The junior forward posted on Instagram Friday afternoon that he has declared for the 2019 NBA Draft and hired an agent. According to a release from MSU Athletic Communications, Ward plans to end his collegiate career.
"After consulting with the coaching staff and my family, I have decided to take the next step to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA by declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft," Ward wrote. "I have been able to become not only a better basketball player, but also a better man. I want to thank Coach Izzo and the entire coaching staff for believing in me and pushing me to be better everyday. I want to thank all the fans for the love and support and I also want to thank my teammates for helping me each and everyday."
Under new NCAA guidelines, players have until April 21 to submit their name for the draft. Players then have until the May 29 deadline — approximately 10 days after the NBA Scouting Combine — to withdraw their name and return to school. Per the NCAA's rule changes at the beginning of the season, players are allowed to hire an agent during a process in which they can receive feedback from an NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. Players can still return to school if they pull out of the draft and terminate the relationship with the agent.
Ward, the 6-foot-9 standout from Gahanna, Ohio, declared for the draft after last season, but did not work with an agent, which under the old NCAA rules, allowed him to withdraw his name and return.
"Nick went through the draft process last year and gained some valuable information,” coach Tom Izzo said in the release. “When he made the decision to return for his junior season, I made one request that he be fully committed to our team and program. Nick did everything I asked and more, improving as a player and becoming a better teammate. I was impressed with his attitude and commitment as well as the way he grew his game throughout the whole year. I also knew Nick’s desire to begin his pro career following his junior season, and I’m fully supportive of his decision. He has worked very hard over the last three years to put himself in this position and I look forward to helping him reach his dreams.”
Ward was an All-Big Ten third-team selection by coaches and the media this season. He finished third on the team in scoring and rebounding with 12.9 points and 6.1 boards per game, and averaged shooting 58.0% from the field, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. Before missing five games after suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand on Feb. 17, Ward averaged 15.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in conference play.
In 104 career games, he has scored 1,359 points, a 13.1 per game average, which ranks No. 26 all-time at MSU.
Consensus All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston also announced Friday that he will be returning to MSU for his senior season. The junior point guard led the team in scoring and averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists and started all 39 games this season.
With Ward's departure, the Spartans have one open scholarship remaining. Whether Izzo decides to land another recruit or fill the vacancy through a transfer remains to be seen.
The Spartans will have three freshman next season if the recruiting class remains as-is, consisting of forwards Malik Hall (Wichita, Kansas/Sunrise Christian) and Julius Marble (Dallas/Jesuit), along with combo guard Mark "Rocket" Watts (Geneva, Ohio/SPIRE Academy).
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