LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Michigan State freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. announced Monday that he is entering the NBA Draft and intends to hire an agent.

Jackson becomes the third Spartan to declare early for the draft in the last week, joining sophomores Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, though Ward does not intend to hire an agent, leaving open the possibility he could return to Michigan State next season.

“I’m so proud of Jaren and excited for him as he takes the next step in his basketball career,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “He was a tremendous talent when he first stepped on campus, but when I think about the way he’s improved so much in just one year, especially defensively and with the ball, the sky’s the limit on what he can accomplish. There’s no question he could be one of the first few players selected in the draft.”

Jackson, who was the Big Ten freshman of the year and the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year after recording a program-record 106 blocks, wrote a statement announcing his decision and posted it on social media.

It read:

“Spartan Nation:

“Michigan State is an amazing place. And this has been an amazing year — from the time I hit the campus in June for summer workouts and summer school until now. I never imagined it would be like this. Never. Playing for Coach Izzo and the rest of the staff has been incredible. They’ve helped me develop so much, both on and off the court. After only one year, I know my memories are few but they will never be forgotten: football games, late night study group and early morning study hall at the Smith Center, the Breslin and the mighty Izzone, the PK80 title, the outright Big Ten Championship, and being recognized as Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the B1G. Please know that nothing was lost on me. Still, nothing is bigger than the bond I have with my teammates. These guys are my family. They will always be my brothers.

“Spartans, this was not an automatic decision. And honestly, thank you for making it one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to think about. While playing in the NBA was always my dream and desire, I did not know the opportunity would present itself in quite this way. I’m ready to live my dreams and I cannot pass it up. Therefore, the time has come to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft.

“Even though I will no longer play for MSU, I will ALWAYS be a Spartan! I will finish my studies and I will kiss the Spartan helmet on the Breslin court.

“#SpartanForLife

“Go Green!

“—Jaren”

The 6-foot-11 Jackson is a projected as a top-five pick in this June’s draft. He finished fifth on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game and led the Spartans with just more than three blocks a game, which ranked first in the Big Ten Conference and No. 7 nationally. He also grabbed 5.8 rebounds a game and shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range.

Jackson had been contemplating his decision since Michigan State was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Syracuse. Last week, Bridges and Ward both made their announcements while Jackson mulled things over on the weekend.

Last Thursday, his father, Jaren Sr., said they appreciated the opportunity Jaren Jr. had but weren’t rushing their decision.

“We are having great ongoing family conversations as Jaren Jr. thinks about his opportunities ahead,” Jackson Sr. said in a text message. “We are so proud of him to be in this position to have a true choice.”

Jackson makes the jump to the NBA with the help of his father, who played in the NBA and won a championship with the Spurs in 1999.

It now leaves the Spartans with several significant holes to fill along with the graduation of Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn, Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. However, Izzo was fully supportive of Jackson’s choice.

“Jaren’s a great young man who was an absolute joy to coach. He loved being a part of this team and Michigan State University,” Izzo said. “Everyone knows what he achieved on the court with his blocked shots record and earning Big Ten freshman and defensive player of the year honors, but they should also know that his success in the classroom was just as great.

“Furthermore, the way he handles himself with class off the court will serve him well as a professional. He has a great support system in place with his terrific parents, and I look forward to him having a long productive NBA career.”

Jackson, who was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week four times during the season, recorded six double-doubles and scored in double figures 25 times. He was also selected to the All-Big Ten third team and was a unanimous selection to the All-freshman team.

Michigan State, this season’s regular-season Big Ten champion, brings in a five-member recruiting class next season that ranks in the top 10.

It includes 6-10 forward Marcus Bingham (Grand Rapids CC), 6-7 forward Gabe Brown (Belleville), 6-6 forward Aaron Henry (Indianapolis Ben Davis), 6-8 forward Thomas Kithier (Clarkston) and 6-0 guard Foster Loyer (Clarkston), this season’s Mr. Basketball in Michigan.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE