Big Ten Q&A: Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges
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The Big Ten is loaded with good freshmen this season. Just look around. Maryland has a trio of them in Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter. Iowa boasts Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl, Jordan Bohannon and Ryan Kriener. Penn State features Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. Minnesota has Amir Coffey, while Purdue possesses Carsen Edwards. And Michigan State has Josh Langford, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Miles Bridges, who may be the best of all the Big Ten freshmen.
The 6-7, 230-pound Flint, Mich., native averages 16.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists, providing a bright light in what often has been a challenging season in East Lansing for a Spartan program that is 13-9 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten, looking to extend an NCAA tourney streak that began in 1998.
I caught up with Bridges as he prepped to play at Nebraska against a Cornhusker club that is coming off a huge victory vs. Purdue.
Q: The last time out, Michigan State whipped Michigan to end a three-game losing skid. What did that victory mean to the program?
Q: It was a big win for us. We really needed it. It helped boost our confidence and we are back on the winning road again.
Q: It seems like Michigan State has had a difficult time getting in rhythm this season. Has there been a cause for the inconsistency?
A: We have been dealing with a lot of injuries. I missed time (seven games) with injury (ankle). And when you come back from injury, it hurts your confidence a bit. But we are getting everyone 100 percent ready to go. We should be good.
Q: When the season began, you were hailed by many as the top incoming freshman in the Big Ten. How have you dealt with that pressure?
A: I just don’t let the pressure get to me. It is a team sport. I try to get all my teammates involved. And nine times out of 10, we will win the game. I don’t put any pressure just on me.
Q: MSU has several good freshmen. How have they done?
A: Nick (Ward) has been really good for us. When I was out with injury, he was the man for us. He did everything, defense and offense. He stepped up. He has been a real key defender, defending the best guy on the other team. Cassius (Winston) has been doing great. He has been leading the team really well. He is starting to learn how to lead the team like Tum Tum (Nairn). We are getting it going.
Q: You have scored in double-digits in each of the last five games, smoking Purdue for 33 points and Ohio State for 24. Are you playing your best basketball of the season right now?
A: Yes, I am feeling really comfortable. I have a lot of chemistry with my teammates, so they are hitting me in my sweet spots on the floor. Coach knows where I like to score from, so he gets me in the right places, too.
Q: Where do you like to score from?
A: I like being on the fast break a lot. But when we are in the half-court set, you can put me about anywhere. I am really comfortable in the post.
Q: What do you need to get better at?
A: My ball-handling. And I can always do better with my shooting. I have been doing a pretty good job with my shot selection. I also want to limit my turnovers and get my free-throw percentage up.
Q: When you were a kid, who did you like you emulate?
A: I tried to be like LeBron (James). He is a great player and a good person off the court, too. He is my favorite player and I try to do a lot of stuff like him.
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?
A: No. I just listen to music before games and try to focus on the game. I put my phone on “do not disturb.”
Q: What’s the best part of playing for Tom Izzo?
A: He is a Hall of Fame coach and he is a benefit off the court. He also stands by his players and he wants you to be successful on and off the court. It is like a family environment. It isn’t a four-year decision, it is a 40-year decision. You can always come back and feel the Spartan love like when you played here.
Q: Will you be back for your sophomore season?
A: I am not making any decisions yet. I just want to win games and go as far as we can in the tournament.
Q: Will Michigan State make the Big Dance?
A: I have confidence we will make it. This last win really helped our confidence. We know what we need to do to win. We just need to focus for 40 minutes. And we can’t have turnovers or missed defensive assignments.
Q: Are you ready for Nebraska? The Huskers are coming off a big victory.
A: They are a really good team. They just beat Purdue. Purdue beat us at home. They are a tough team, too.
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