This article is part of our Freshman Haze series.
Happy Holidays from the Haze. It may be that I don't have the greatest grasp of present giving, but my gift to you is a fresh set of seven freshman profiles of players that have been playing well of late. The Big Ten is not always the best place to find first-year players. Teams like Wisconsin generally prefer to develop their players and allow them to contribute as upperclassmen. Ohio State was once the best option for frosh talent, but this year it is Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans that have been a fount of young talent. With previously profiled Miles Bridges out with a sprained ankle, other kids have been able to step up.
Nick Ward, forward, Michigan State Spartans
There is a direct parallel between Bridges' injury and Ward's rise in the Spartan offense. In his last five games with Bridges watching from the sideline, the 6-8 forward has averaged 17.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. Ward was getting regular minutes in the first month of the season, but provided just 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. At 6-foot-8, 250 lbs, Ward is somewhat undersized as a center, but he does most of his damage in the paint. He also has nice defensive instincts and is averaging 1.9 blocks (with a six-block game on Dec. 18 against Northeastern). Izzo's teams usually improve during the season, and often times the emergence of players such as Ward contributes to this.
Cassius Winston, guard, Michigan State Spartans
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