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When Michigan State’s season ended with a second-round loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament, sophomore Nick Ward said he wasn’t thinking about what next season might bring.

On Thursday, he gave some indication of his thinking when it was announced the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward was submitting his name for the NBA Draft. However, Ward will not hire an agent, which leaves to door open for a return to Michigan State for his junior season.

“Thank you for your support during my 2 years at MSU,” Ward posted on Twitter. “Thank you to my coaches and teammates for believing in me. Thank you Mom and Dad for your love and support. With that being said I will enter the 2018 NBA draft, I will not hire an agent at this time.”

Ward can start attending team workouts on April 24 and will be eligible to compete, if selected, in the NBA Draft Combine, which runs May 16-20. Ward then must decide by May 30 whether or not to remain in the draft or return to Michigan State.

“I fully support Nick’s decision to take the opportunity to explore his draft stock,” coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “He has continued to improve and worked very hard over the last two years to put himself in this position. The process will allow him to receive direct feedback and an assessment as to where he stands in his dream to play at the highest level.”

In 35 games this season, Ward averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game while earning third-team All-Big Ten honors. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a freshman when he scored 13.9 points and grabbed 6.5 rebounds a game.

Playing time has always been the biggest issue with Ward in his first two seasons as he often struggled to cover ball screens, outweighing some of what he gave the Spartans on the offensive end. He averaged 19.8 minutes as a freshman and 18.9 minutes this season, playing just 10 minutes in the Big Ten tournament loss to Michigan and 16 in the NCAA loss to Syracuse.

Ward is the second Michigan State player to enter the draft early after sophomore Miles Bridges announced on Wednesday that he was forgoing his final two seasons and hiring an agent.

The Spartans are still awaiting word from freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., who is projected as a top-10 selection but has not announced his intentions.

matt.charboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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