Jaren Jackson Jr. Named Big Ten Freshman & Defensive Player of the Year
Bridges Named First Team, Jackson and Winston Earn Third Team Nods
East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year by the conference’s media and coaches, the Big Ten office announced on Monday, Feb. 26. Jackson was also selected to the All-Big Ten Third Team and was a unanimous selection to the All-Freshman Team.
Sophomore guard/forward Miles Bridges was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten First Team by both the media and the coaches. Sophomore guard Cassius Winston earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors from both groups, while sophomore forward Nick Ward was an honorable mention selection by the coaches and a Third Team honoree by the media.
Jackson is the second straight MSU player to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year, following Bridges in 2017. He is the third Spartan to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year since it was first presented in 1986, joining Bridges and Gary Harris (2013), and is just the fifth MSU freshman to earn all-conference honors, along with Bridges, Harris (2013), Shawn Respert (1992) and Magic Johnson (1978).
“I’m thrilled for all of our players,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s a great recognition for them and for the hard work they have all put in this season. I’m obviously very excited for Jaren. To win both Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season is very rare and makes this a phenomenal accomplishment.”
Jackson is fifth on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game and ranks No. 4 in the country, averaging 3.29 blocked shots per game. He finished the regular season with 102 blocked shots, establishing a new MSU single-season record. Named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week four times this season, Jackson also averages 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. One of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, Jackson has recorded six double-doubles this year and scored in double figures 24 times. He set a career-high with 27 points at Minnesota and tied the MSU single-game record with eight blocked shots against Rutgers on Dec. 5.
Jackson is just the second player in Big Ten history to win both Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (Ohio State’s Greg Oden in 2007).
“It’s incredible,” Jackson said. “Freshman of the Year was one of my goals coming in. Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t a goal of mine at first and I honestly didn’t know I’d have a shot of getting it, especially being a freshman. I’m so blessed, I’m so shocked at the same time. Just getting two awards in the same day, it’s not something a lot of people can say they’ve done. It’s a great feeling.”
Bridges earns All-Big Ten honors for the second-straight season after being named Freshman of the Year and earning all-league second team honors in 2017. He leads Michigan State, and ranks tied for seventh in the Big Ten, with 16.8 points per game, is second on the team with 6.9 rebounds and third with 2.8 assists per game. He is one of 30 players on the Late Season Team for the Citizen Naismith Trophy, is on the John R. Wooden Award® Late Season Top 20, is one of 10 finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award and is one of 14 players selected to the midseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates, because I wouldn’t be able to get this without them,” Bridges said. “We’ve had a lot going on and me and Tum (Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.) have had to rally the guys around. I give all the credit to them, because if it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t be here.”
Winston earns All-Big Ten honors for the first time in his career. He is third on the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game and leads the Big Ten in both assists per game (6.9 apg) and 3-point field goal percentage, connecting on 56.5 percent of his shots from long distance. One of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, Winston ranks ninth nationally in assists and leads the country in 3-point field goal percentage.
Ward earns All-Big Ten honors for the second-straight year, as he was an honorable mention selection by the coaches and media last year. He is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game, leads the team with 7.5 rebounds and ranks second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, connecting on 67.4 percent of his shots from the field.
Senior co-captain Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. was one of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees.
Michigan State’s enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed following a 68-63 win at Wisconsin on Sunday to clinch the outright regular season title. The Spartans will play on Friday, March 2 at noon against the winner of No. 8 Maryland and No. 9 Wisconsin. The game will air live on the Big Ten Network. The Spartans are seeking their sixth Big Ten Tournament title (1999, 2000, 2012, 2014, 2016).