Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. drafted No. 4 overall, Miles Bridges goes No. 12
There was plenty of dealing Thursday night during the first round of the NBA Draft, and by the midway point, two Spartans had heard their name called.
Forward Jaren Jackson Jr. went No. 4 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies, and less than an hour later, teammate Miles Bridges was taken No. 12 overall by the Clippers before being dealt to the Hornets for Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was taken with the 11th pick.
Jackson and Bridges are the highest two Michigan State players selected in the same NBA Draft since Magic Johnson and Gregory Kelser went No. 1 and No. 4 in 1979. They are sixth MSU tandem to be taken in the first round.
"Oh, my gosh, we've been hanging out like every day in the room, like, 'Man, this is about to happen,'" Jackson said. "Like every day up to this point we've been in New York, we've just probably been just thinking about it.
"To get drafted with your teammate especially, not many people get to do that. It's pretty frequent this year you see the Kentucky guys and you see the Villanova guys. It's a great feeling, trust me."
The two selections give Michigan State coach Tom Izzo 20 players drafted with 12 coming in the first round.
"Usually people talk about Coach Izzo not being able to develop players, but it kind of speaks for himself," Bridges said. "We have Draymond (Green) in the league, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, and all those guys are doing pretty fine. He just added two more in Jaren Jackson and myself. I feel like Coach Izzo is great at developing people, and Michigan State as a staff is great at doing that, too."
In Jackson's one season at Michigan State, he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year. He was just the second player in Big Ten history to win both Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, matching Ohio State’s Greg Oden who won both in 2007.
"No words. No can describe it," Jackson said. "All the hard work I put in the gym to lead up to this moment. I'm a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. It's crazy. I’m so happy.
"I wanted to be an NBA player probably as long as I can remember. I can't really even -- it's everybody's dream. We dream about this every day, and we dream about this moment probably more than you can think of. It's surreal."
Jackson was joined by his father, Jaren Sr., and his mother, Terri. Jaren Jackson Jr. won an NBA title with the Spurs in 1999 but was undrafted.
"So proud," Jaren Jackson Sr. said. "I love him of course, and he’s worked hard. All the credit goes to him. A proud moment for the Jackson three."
Jackson joins former Spartan Deyonta Davis, who averaged 5.8 points and four rebounds in 62 games for the Grizzlies last season.
Jackson finished fifth on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game and led the Spartans with 3.03 blocked shots per game, which ranked first in the Big Ten Conference and No. 7 nationally. Jackson was also third on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game and shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range.
Jackson blocked 106 blocked shots, establishing an MSU single-season record, and tied the MSU single-game record with eight blocked shots against Rutgers on Dec. 5.
"He may be the best defender in the draft," ESPN's Jay Bilas said. "I think you're looking at a player, I agree with Woj, I think he's got a chance to be as good as anybody in this draft."
Bridges said he did not work out for the Hornets, but felt he would fit in well in Charlotte.
"I love the city of Charlotte," Bridges said. "I know a lot of guys there. I feel like it will be great for me. It's a blessing. All the glory goes to God. Thanks to my mom and a shout-out to Flint. I'm blessed to be here."
Bridges was a second-team All-American as a sophomore, averaging 17 points a game while grabbing seven rebounds and handing out 2.8 assists per game.
"He's a wrecking ball in transition," Bilas said. "He's a strong finisher because he is such a great athlete. A solid defender, can defend bigger people and defend on the perimeter and has zero ego."
After passing on the NBA following his freshman season, Bridges didn't have any regrets on Thursday night.
"I feel like my game has definitely matured," Bridges said. "I know how to play the game of basketball the right way. I watched a lot of film. I feel like I got better in my mental aspect of the game and my physical aspect. I learned how to play on different parts of the floor, on the wing, on the inside. I learned how to be an efficient player."