Michigan State’s Miles Bridges sets sights on national title run after fruitful summer

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Miles Bridges missed a lot of foods during his 30-day, no-sugar diet this summer, but none as much as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

That’s the price the Michigan State sophomore had to pay to drop from 242 pounds to 225. It took a whole lot of work in the gym as well. But in both ventures, he had senior guard Tum Tum Nairn and sophomore guard Josh Langford right beside him, doing the same.

Coach Tom Izzo told his players after last season that he wanted them to play one-on-one against “somebody that’s better than them, that’s quicker than them, that’s bigger and stronger than them.” So the workout trio of Bridges, Langford and Nairn took things to another level.

But who on Michigan State’s team is better than Bridges? Probably no one. Multiple media outlets have named him their preseason player of the year in college basketball. He’s a potential NBA lottery pick who surprised many with his decision to return to school. Bridges wants to make sure that while he’s showered with praise, people don’t underestimate his teammates.

“In my opinion, Josh Langford is the best shooting guard in the nation just because he pushes me to my limits every time I guard him,” Bridges said. “Offensively, defensively, he’s just a great player. And I think people are really going to be able to see that this year.”

Langford’s game has been a measuring stick for Bridges, who took pride in saying he thinks he can run the floor as well as his fellow sophomore now. Playing the 3 instead of the 4 spot, he’ll be called upon to keep up with quicker players this season.

And going against Nairn never hurts for conditioning. As one of the quickest players in the nation, he runs Nairn and Langford ragged.

“Of course Tum, he’s just a freak of nature,” Bridges said, “so if I try to get myself to his standards then I feel like I’ll be decent on the wing.”

Those three would get together every day for rousing sessions of 1-on-1-on-1. The offensive player gets three dribbles. If he scores, the defender gets replaced. If he doesn’t, he gets replaced.

Langford would use his craftiness with the ball to create space. Nairn, a superb defender, would admittedly foul a lot in the absence of referees. And Bridges would hone the skills he’ll need as a wing on a much bigger team.

“We play for hours, man,” Nairn said. “We play for hours. I think it’s helped all of us a lot.”

Bridges cited improvements in his all-around game, namely ball-handling and the ability to defend guards. Langford saw him take steps in other areas as well, and laughed when told of the heaps of praise his roommate had thrust upon him.

“I feel like we both think each other are the two best players in our position,” Langford said. “With Miles, he’s come back a totally different player. Something that he’s really gotten better at, to me, is his midrange game and with his leadership as well. I feel like this year the sky is the limit for Miles.”

As a freshman, Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks per game on 48.6 percent shooting. He earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. He dunked on what seemed like half of the conference. What does he have left to prove?

Well, an NCAA Tournament second-round appearance didn’t sit well with Bridges, who described his accomplishments on a team-wide basis as “nothing.” He said on the Big Ten Network after beating former NFL lineman Spice Adams in P-I-G, “We’re definitely winning a national championship.” His summer work seems to have reflected those plans.

“I can’t think of a guy that’s worked harder all summer to make sure he’s ready,” Izzo said. “I think he’ll be more than ready for an incredible season.”

Along with playing for a title, Bridges said he wants to play for his teammates. That includes Nairn, his mentor and workout partner who helped him get to this point.

“Tum, he’s been a role model in my life,” Bridges said. “This is his senior year, and I would like to send him out right. So I’m going to be playing to my best abilities to send him out right, send the other seniors out right and to play for my other teammates, too.”

The post Michigan State’s Miles Bridges sets sights on national title run after fruitful summer appeared first on Land of 10.

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