Jaren Jackson Jr. made it three Michigan State players who have declared for the 2018 NBA draft.
The freshman forward announced Monday that he will sign with an agent and forgo his final three years with the Spartans.
“I never imagined it would be like this. Never,” Jackson wrote on Twitter. “Playing for (coach Tom) Izzo and the rest of the staff has been incredible. They’ve helped me develop so much, both on and off the court.
“After only one year, I know my memories are few, but they will never be forgotten.”
The 6-foot-11, 242-pound Jackson was named Big Ten freshman and defensive player of the year after averaging 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.1 assists in 21.8 minutes a game. His 106 blocked shots ranked fifth in Division I and broke an MSU record that stood for 33 years.
Jackson is pegged among the top-10 in almost every mock draft, as high as No. 3 overall by both ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
“Spartans, this was not an automatic decision,” Jackson wrote. “And honestly, thank you for making it one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to think about. While playing in the NBA was always my dream and desire, I did not know the opportunity would present itself in quite this way. I’m ready to live my dreams and I cannot pass it up.”
Jackson said he plans to eventually get his degree from MSU “and I will kiss the Spartan helmet on the Breslin court.”
“I’m so proud of Jaren and excited for him as he takes the next step in his basketball career,” Izzo said in a released statement. “He was a tremendous talent when he first stepped on campus, but when I think about the way he’s improved so much in just one year, especially defensively and with the ball, the sky’s the limit on what he can accomplish. There’s no question he could be one of the first few players selected in the draft.
“Jaren’s a great young man who was an absolute joy to coach. He loved being a part of this team and Michigan State University. Everyone knows what he achieved on the court with his blocked shots record and earning Big Ten Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year honors, but they should also know that his success in the classroom was just as great. Furthermore, the way he handles himself with class off the court will serve him well as a professional. He has a great support system in place with his terrific parents, and I look forward to him having a long productive NBA career.”
Miles Bridges announced last Wednesday that he would turn pro and signed with an agent to end his college career after two seasons. The 6-7 forward from Flint, Mich., is considered a mid- to late-lottery selection in most mock drafts.
Fellow sophomore Nick Ward declared for the draft but did not sign hire an agent. The 6-8 forward, who is not listed in most mock drafts, has until May 30 to withdraw his name from the draft and return to MSU for his junior season. He can still participate in the NBA draft combine, which will be May 16-20 in Chicago.
The Spartans also lose three seniors — Tum Tum Nairn, Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter — and have five incoming recruits arriving this fall in point guard Foster Loyer, swingmen Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown and forwards Marcus Bingham Jr. and Thomas Kithier. MSU would have one open scholarship if Ward leaves.