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Bridges, MSU work to round out recruiting class

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Now that Miles Bridges has provided Michigan State its biggest “recruit” for this season’s class he’ll get back to work trying to convince a few more to join him.

Bridges announced last week he was returning for his sophomore season, deciding to leave the NBA until at least next year as he chases his dream of winning a national championship. That decision could have a significant impact on a class that already includes two of the top big men in the country, though Bridges will continue to push.

“Yeah I’ve been recruiting,” Bridges said. “We already got a good recruiting class, Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman. I’m going to keep recruiting.”

Jackson is the 6-foot-10 forward from La Lumiere who earned McDonald’s All-American honors and is ranked the No. 6 overall player in the nation by Rivals.com. Tillman is the 6-8 bruiser from Grand Rapids Christian who was runner-up in Michigan’s Mr. Basketball voting and is ranked No. 82 in the nation by Rivals.

But there’s plenty more work to be done, and Bridges will do his part. Michigan State currently has one scholarship open and one up in the air as the Spartans wait to hear on the status of Ben Carter’s appeal for a sixth season of eligibility.

The question, however, is how does Bridges’ decision affect those still on Michigan State’s radar?

“For every guy that wants to play with Miles, there’s some selfish guys that would rather have all the spotlight on themselves,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I do know that Miles is a kid that guys want to play with.”

Three players who have yet to commit remain high on Michigan State’s list. The player the Spartans have been after the longest is 6-7 guard Brian Bowen, a Saginaw native who is No. 15 in the nation in the composite rankings from 247sports.com.

He earned MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic on Friday, scoring 26 points and shooting 10-for-13 from the field, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range.

“They’ve been recruiting me for a very long time now. Four years coming,” Bowen told SBNation after the game. “Coach Izzo, he’s a great guy overall. He’s talked to me a lot, coming in and being an impact guy. They have Miles coming back now, so it’ll be a great one-two punch right there. Just making my hometown proud, and my home state proud.”

Bowen also is considering Arizona, Creighton, Texas and N.C. State and has said he will make his decision by the end of the month.

Brandon McCoy would add even more size to an already big class. The 6-10 native of Chicago who plays at Cathedral Catholic in San Diego is ranked No. 10 in the 247 composite and played in both the McDonald’s All-American game as well as the Jordan Brand Classic.

He’s also considering Oregon, Arizona, San Diego State and UNLV. Like Bowen, McCoy intends to wait until the end of the month to make his decision, and he’s not shying away from joining a class already heavy on big men.

“I feel like we could play together,” McCoy told 247sports. “I’m a versatile person. I don’t consider myself a center. I could play the four, five. I just play the game to win. If it’s me playing with Jaren, we could play together.”

As for Bridges’ choice, McCoy doesn’t see that as a negative.

“He plays a different position,” McCoy said. “He’s a great player. I’m pretty sure I can play off of him, so he’s a great player to play with.”

Mark Smith is a 6-5 combo guard from Edwardsville, Ill., who Michigan State has jumped on later in the process. He’s also considering Ohio State, Illinois, and Kentucky. He took an official visit to Michigan State on April 8-9.

His rankings vary a bit more, as the four-star is No. 52 according to Rivals.com and No. 82 on the 247 composite list. He was Mr. Basketball in Illinois this season and he told Landof10.com that he knew Bridges was staying before the announcement.

“He told me on my visit last week,” Smith said. “I already knew he was coming back.”

However the final class shakes out, there seems little doubt it will be a team effort.

“We are Spartans, we are going to hang together and we are going to get some things done,” Izzo said. “Miles is a great recruiter, Tum (Tum Nairn) is a great recruiter. I’m learning that our freshmen are becoming better recruiters. Kenny (Goins) and Gavin (Schilling) and everybody else have done a great, great job and I think we will continue to do that.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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