Ex-teammate Poole: MSU’s Jackson should head to NBA

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

San Antonio — As Michigan State freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. contemplates his future and the possibility of entering the NBA Draft as a likely lottery pick, at least one former teammate thinks the decision is a simple one.

“That’s definitely my homie. That’s like my brother,” Michigan freshman Jordan Poole said. “He’s definitely got a big decision ahead of him, but I personally think he should be able to go to the league only because the opportunity like this isn’t given all the time. I definitely think he should take it and I feel like he’s gonna take it.

“We talk about it sometimes, but I definitely don’t want to overwhelm him with a decision like this, but he’s an amazing guy and I know he’s gonna make the right decision. Having an opportunity to go lottery as a freshman is huge.”

Poole and his Michigan teammates were practicing Thursday and getting ready for Saturday’s matchup with Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four with a spot in the national championship game up for grabs.

But before Poole and Jackson were squaring off in the Big Ten this season, they were teammates at La Lumiere in La Porte, Ind., last year. In that time, Poole said, the two became close and he feels he has a unique perspective of what Jackson is thinking.

Poole, the hero of Michigan’s second-round win over Houston when he hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer, would be surprised if Jackson is back at Michigan State next season.

“I definitely don’t think he’d come back,” Poole said. “Only because he knows the magnitude of the situation he’s in and he had a pretty good run. They were the No. 1 team in the country for a little bit and had some big-time games and I think he became the freshman block leader, I don’t know if I want to say country, but I know for sure at Michigan State. So being able to have a situation like this I would hope he wouldn’t come back to school.”

And that has nothing to do with Poole not wanting to face his former teammate again.

“I’m not worried about that,” Poole said with a laugh. “I’m 2-0 against him and Jaren knows he can’t get too many wins on me, we’d play in practice last year. But being able to get two wins against one of my closest friends is huge, but I think he should go to the league.”

Two of Jackson’s teammates already have declared early for the draft. Sophomore Miles Bridges announced on Wednesday he is forgoing his final two seasons and hiring an agent while sophomore Nick Ward said on Thursday he’s submitting his name for the draft but is not hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility he could return.