Tom Izzo thinks Miles Bridges is a ‘weirdo’ Knicks could use
Miles Bridges’ decision to return to Michigan State for his sophomore year upset his mother, stunned his coach and made national headlines.
The dynamic Big 10 Freshman of the Year was projected a mid-to-late lottery pick after what figured as a one-and-done college career. Miles’ mother, Cynthia, was set to quit her job as a receptionist in Flint, Mich.
But Bridges returned to Lansing, saying he wanted to win an NCAA title. That didn’t happen and even his statistics suffered as a sophomore, his 3-point shot not as trustworthy.
And now the question is what impact Miles’ decision to stay in school will have on the 20-year-old’s draft stock come June 21.
The Knicks select ninth and have a giant decision on their hands, likely choosing between two small forwards named Bridges. Junior Mikal Bridges of Villanova won the NCAA title the 6-foot-7 Miles coveted.
“It tells you a lot about him — he loved his mother but wanted to do what he wanted to do and not let others make his decision,’’ Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told The Post. “That’s a strength for pro teams who have interest in him. He beats to his own drum in a positive way.
“Why wouldn’t he come out? I was shocked he didn’t. But he had things he wanted to accomplish, goals he wanted to meet and he actually enjoyed college. That’s why I call him everything from a throwback to a weirdo in a complimentary way.’’
Miles was reduced to tears when Michigan State, which won the Big 10 regular-season title, was ousted by Syracuse in an NCAA Tournament second-round shocker Syracuse. Miles shot 4-of-18. He’s lost 20 pounds since that game.
“We just couldn’t make a shot that day,’’ Izzo said. “But it’s worked out good. He got better. That’s what he wanted to do. Got better with the ball. One of those things he never had a regret. Only media people made a big deal about [the sophomore stats]. We had a better team [his freshman year].”
Miles still is expected to go in the top 12 — close to his projection had he come out as a freshman. Izzo thinks NBA executives will value his priorities.
“I think they respect it a lot,’’ Izzo said. “It tells you he’s not playing for the money. Everyone’s looking for money, me included. It wasn’t the end all be all. It was about winning. Winning is important to him. Winning the Big 10 regular-season championship was important to him. That’s why he’ll be an incredible addition. Winning is the ultimate for him and not branding. Scott Perry knows that and knows a lot of people here.’’
Indeed, the Knicks general manager is a Detroit guy to the bone — with an assistant-coaching stint at Michigan to boot. Perry knows Flint as fertile ground for creating NBA stars.
“Scott has a different appreciation for Michigan kids,’’ Izzo said. “Everybody sticks up for their part of the country. You can say about Midwestern kids they have values, work ethic. Miles has all those things. He’s a really unbelievable teammate — not a selfish bone in his body. That speaks a lot in this day and age.”
Perry spoke to Izzo during the season about Miles and will again next week. Meanwhile, when new coach David Fizdale was introduced at a press conference, assistant GM Gerald Madkins was in Lansing, spending the day interviewing staff about Miles.
The scouting reports show Miles as a super athletic, versatile wing who can play both forward positions with blue-collar grit. Izzo said the statistical drop-off in rebounding and scoring this past season was the byproduct of being on a weaker team, and needing to do more.
Miles also played power forward as a freshman, coming off pick-and-pops for his 3-pointers. There was an adjustment coming off screens differently at small forward. His shooting percentage fell from 48.6 percent to 45.7.
“I see a guy who can play a lot of positions and defend them with his strength and rebounding,’’ Izzo said. “What I’d like to see him get better at? Continually improving getting shots off the dribble. He’s a phenomenal 85 percent free-throw shooter. I’d like to see him get to the line more.
“He’ll get better because he’s a gym rat — in there at 6:30 a.m., in there at night. How many guys love the game, how many guys like the game.”
Asked about the expected comparison of the two Bridges, Izzo said, “That is interesting. I love Mikal, too. Miles got some things that people like in strength and better athletically. [Mikal], people think he shoots it better. Miles has got the toughness and strength. I think that’s impressive to teams. They’re both right there.’’
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