DIMONDALE, Mich. — The fans were there to see Mark “Rocket” Watts, Michigan State’s freshman guard from Detroit, but it was a previous sensation that stole the show Thursday at the opening night of the Moneyball Pro-Am.
Charlotte Hornet forward Miles Bridges, an MSU standout from 2016-18, returned to the place he announced himself three summers ago to play for Team Cosmic, awing the crowd with 360-degree dunks and the athleticism that was his trademark during his time with the Spartans.
Bridges played against Team Roots, featuring current MSU forward Xavier Tillman, Atlanta Hawks Summer League participant Nick Ward, and former NBA point guard Kay Felder. In the second half, Bridges called Ward out to defend him on the perimeter, and drove past his former 2016 classmate with ease, finishing with his weak right hand and absorbing a foul from the recently exited star.
While the game quickly devolved into little more than the teams trading dunks, in the first game of the night, Team Freeze defeated Team Dimension 79-67, with the victors featuring MSU sophomore forward Aaron Henry and freshman forward Julius Marble.
Marble, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Dallas, Texas, showed off his impressive body and skillset, driving for a thunderous dunk and knocking down a catch-and-shoot three in his first public appearance since officially signing with MSU.
It seems as though Marble wasn’t forewarned of the atmosphere at Moneyball, where little kids come up looking for autographs and cheering even incoming freshmen’s names.
“It’s a little weird, but it’s pretty cool at the same time,” Marble said.
He said his target weight is 230, and he’s gained seven pounds of muscle since his arrival on campus last month.
“Before I got here, I lifted twice per week, now we lift like four times per week,” he said. “It’s a different beast.”
Marble said he needs to develop both physically and in his technique before he can earn playing time for a team that reached the Final Four in April.
“Getting my body right, getting in Big Ten shape, because it’s a physical conference,” he said. “Just working hard on the little things as far as setting the right screens and knowing when to pop and getting in the right position, which doesn’t quite happen as I get used to the offense.”
Watts did eventually appear and play in the third game of the night, but had a poor shooting performance. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard, who finished high school at SPIRE Academy in Ohio, will join the team Monday after spending the first portion of the summer completing high school academic requirements.
Watts, Marble and fellow freshman forward Malik Hall are stepping into a team with high expectations. The Spartans have been ranked No. 1 in the country by early preseason polls.
Written on the weight room, in big bold letters, according to Marble?
“Get to Atlanta!”
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, is the site of the 2020 Final Four.