Ward withdrawing from NBA draft, returning to MSU

Associated Press • May 30, 2018 at 1:28 AM

Michigan State's big man is back.

Nick Ward will withdraw his name from the 2018 NBA Draft and return to Michigan State for his junior season in 2018-19, his mother confirmed on Tuesday night.

The decision is a boost to the Spartans frontcourt going forward, as Ward returns for a third season as Michigan State's starting center. As a sophomore in 2017-18, Ward averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and was at times among the most efficient big men in the Big Ten. His 64.8 field goal percentage was second-best in the conference.

"It was a great opportunity for me to go through the process and I'm grateful for the feedback I received from NBA teams," Ward said in a school statement. "It is my dream to play in the NBA and I've learned a lot through my workouts and interviews that will help me when I am ready to make that next step. I know what I need to work on and I'm committed to coming to the gym every day and striving to be the best player I can be. I'm really excited to return to Michigan State, to be in front of our fans at the Breslin Center and to be back with my teammates and coaches as we work to reach our team goals."

Shortly after the season, he opted to enter his name into the 2018 NBA draft, without hiring an agent, a route that left the door open for him to return and retain his college eligibility.

He spent the next two months preparing for the draft, a process that included attending individual workouts with NBA teams.

Ward ended that process on Tuesday by opting to return to Michigan State, a day before the NCAA's deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft.

"I'm glad that Nick had the opportunity to go through the process and was able to receive feedback from NBA teams," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "It was a great opportunity for him to explore his draft stock and to see what he needs to work on in order to play at the highest level. After talking to several different teams there were many positives from both his workouts and his interviews, but each team gave him some suggestions for things to work on this summer as he strives to reach his full potential.

"We're very excited to have Nick back and look forward to him helping to lead our team in the successful ways he has since coming to Michigan State. Nick has been a valuable member of our program and I think this experience will not only be helpful to him, but others on our team striving to reach the same dreams and goals."

Ward is one of three Michigan State players to have declared for the draft. Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. both entered the drafts and hired agents, ending their college eligibility. Both are projected to be picked in the top half of the first round of next month's draft.

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