MINNEAPOLIS — Regardless of what the final score is on Saturday, Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston has solidified his status as one of the best players in the country.
His list of accolades includes Big Ten Player of the Year, East Region Most Outstanding Player, and AP First-Team All-American. Next weekend, he will head to Los Angeles as a finalist for the John Wooden Award, given to the country’s most outstanding player.
But how did a former Michigan Mr. Basketball become the best point guard in America? A lot of hard work.
“Just unreal, really just the hard work I put in, the trust that people had in me in my circle,” Winston said. “Nobody gave up on me, I didn’t give up on myself. I just kept working, kept learning, kept getting better and it paid off in a major way.”
Head coach Tom Izzo echoed his floor general’s assessment on how he got to the top of college basketball.
“The greatest thing about it is he has earned his way, he’s gone through the process, he’s gone through a tough year, he’s made some commitments to himself and the program and you watch the growth,” Izzo said.
After averaging seven points and five assists per game as a freshman, Winston’s numbers have improved across the board every year. With an improved skillset and more experience comes more confidence.
“I think he’s always had it in him, now he’s got enough confidence that it doesn’t really matter what’s going on, it doesn’t matter what’s going on he’s going to go out and do his thing and that confidence behind it his entire game, that swagger that he has just carries him through every single play,” said senior forward Kenny Goins. “If he misses a couple shots he’s coming right back for the next one and he’s probably going to make it, it’s just that uplifting presence.”
One aspect of Winston’s game that teammates continue to point out is his understanding of how to play the game.
His IQ is pretty much his game. He has great timing of when to score, when to pass and create for his teammates he can control a game like nobody I’ve ever played with,” said senior forward Matt McQuaid. “He is just a great player that can do so many different things and he helps his team so much in different ways.”
Even Izzo admits that he didn’t see the season Winston has had was coming. But he says he did know Winston was going to be special.
“When I did recruit him as a freshman and sophomore in high school, I said I thought he could be the best passer, the best basketball IQ guy since Magic Johnson, I really did believe that,” Izzo said.