When you watch Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges take flight, you know.
Program alert: “The Journey” profiles Michigan State’s electrifying freshman Miles Bridges and his upbringing in Flint, Mich. The show airs at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
You know his talent is transcendent when he throws down one of his vicious dunks–it’s the type of talent that is destined for a higher level. That brand of athleticism doesn’t generally stick around in college for long. It merely passes through.
You know the 6-foot-7, 230 pound Bridges’ bounce is serious when Jason Richardson–arguably the best dunker in Michigan State history and two-time NBA Slam Dunk champion–gives him a full endorsement.
“It’s just spectacular, the things he does,” Richardson said. “People say I used to jump high, but I think Miles jumps higher than me.”
An injured ankle was the only thing that could slow Bridges down, sidelining him for all of December. But when he returned to the court, it was clear that the injury hadn’t robbed him of any vertical ability. He threw down the Big Ten’s dunk of the year against Rutgers in his first game back.
Of course, the freshman from Flint, Mich., can do more than dunk. He scored 33 points in his Michigan State debut, setting the tone for a Freshman of the Year award-worthy season. He leads the Spartans in scoring (16.4 ppg), rebounding (8.1 ppg) and shoots 42 percent from 3-point distance. That diversified skill set can help him stick in the NBA, but those jams can’t help but be the most captivating part of his game.
With his next-level potential clear to NBA scouts, it remains to be seen how long Bridges will stay in East Lansing. But he says his Michigan roots remain strong in Flint, where he overcame bleak surroundings to eventually play college basketball. Flint’s struggles as a city have been notorious, especially recently with the ongoing water crisis.
Wary of the possibility that her access to Flint’s water supply is tainted, Bridges’ mother still uses water bottles to brush her teeth and wash food. His cousins use bottled water to take baths. And those problems have only compounded the community’s decades-long plight, where 41 percent of residents live in poverty. Bridges left Flint after his freshman year to finish high school at a prep school in West Virginia, which provided an escape from some of the suffocating distractions entangled in his previous surroundings. But Bridges still credits Flint for crafting his character.
“If it wasn’t for Flint, I wouldn’t have the toughness I have today,” he said.
Bridges is one of several Michigan State stars to come from Flint, and he attended the same Flint Southwestern Academy high school as former Spartan Charlie Bell. For Bridges, Flint serves as a reminder of the potential financial impact he can have on the community’s youth going forward. His plans include putting on basketball camps for Flint’s kids in the future.
“I came from a dangerous place,” Bridges said, reflecting on his role model status for inner city kids. “I feel like if I can do it, they can do it.”