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Apr 13, 6:52 PM EDT

Michigan State's Miles Bridges chooses to stay in school


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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Miles Bridges has decided to stay at Michigan State for his sophomore season, putting his NBA dreams on hold.

Bridges got a roar from a huge crowd gathered at the school's Sparty statue on Thursday night as he announced his decision.

"I got some unfinished business here," he said.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Flint led the Spartans with 16.7 points per game, the highest average for a freshman at the school since Magic Johnson scored 17 per game during the 1977-78 season. Bridges also averaged 8.3 rebounds, the most by a Michigan State freshman since Greg Kelser in 1975-76.

Bridges said he's coming back to chase a national championship.

Tom Izzo, who appeared to get choked up when Bridges made his announcement, will have a team capable of contending for the Hall of Fame coach's second national championship and eighth Final Four appearance.

"He never acted like he wanted to leave," Izzo said.

Bridges was part of a highly touted recruiting class that lived up to the hype. He was one of the nation's best freshmen and was surrounded by three classmates - Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford - who ranked among the team's top five scorers.

Michigan State will be without just two players - Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis - who averaged at least 10 minutes a game last season and will return eight of its top 10 players. Another player, power forward Gavin Schilling, is expected to be eligible to play next year after missing his senior season with a knee injury.

The Spartans have signed 6-11, 220-pound forward Jaren Jackson, one of the top recruits in the country, and 6-8, 270-pound forward Xavier Tillman, who was voted first-team all-state in Michigan. They are trying to land two more highly touted high school seniors, Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot center from California, and Mark Smith, a 6-4 point guard from Illinois.

Without several key players from the 2015-16 season, Bridges helped Michigan State extend its NCAA Tournament streak to 20 years and advance to the second round.

Last month, Izzo was thankful Bridges would not be pushed to go pro for one of the common reasons that underclassmen jump to the NBA.

"Let's face it, he'll either leave this year or he'll stay one more season and then he'll go," Izzo told The Associated Press in March. "Some of it will depend on what we do in the Big Ten Tournament and the week after if everything works out. If he goes, it won't be because of his mother's lack of money or because he's flunking out of school. A lot of kids have both of those factors pushing them into the NBA. Miles doesn't and that will allow him to make a decision for the right reasons."

Bridges can soar for slams, but he also can hit 3-pointers and score on an array of low-post moves and mid-range turnaround jumpers. Michigan coach John Beilein has said scouting reports on Miles don't include any weaknesses because he can shoot from the outside or create his own shot off the dribble.

"There's not a defense that is going to stop him," Beilein said.

Beyond his talent, Bridges also sets himself apart with a selfless style that leads to him working with seldom-used teammates such as Kyle Ahrens on his shot and deferring to teammates instead of trying to dominate during games. The public got a glimpse of it at least once when Bridges set up Matt McQuaid for a 3-pointer and pumped his fist, looking happier than he ever was scoring on his own last season.

Bridges also attends Bible study weekly, Izzo has said, and refuses to relish in any of the praise that comes his way because his humility outweighs his ego.

"What gives me the chills is when I have heard people talk this season about Miles as a person, not a player," former NBA player Jeff Grayer said last month at the YMCA gym in Flint, where he coached Bridges as a youngster.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Larry Lage https://twitter.com/LarryLage

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