Michigan State Spartans’ men's basketball player Cassius Winston turns himself into player of the year candidate
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Cassius Winston is a reflection of his parents and Michigan State is reaping the benefits.
The point guard plays and sounds like his soft-spoken father, Reg. The junior controls the tempo, speeding it up at times and taking it slow at others, while not saying much to anyone.
“I definitely got that from my dad,” Winston said. “Cool, calm and collected.”
He is driven for success like his mother, Wendi. He aims for accomplishments on annual lists — including being an All-America player and making it to the Final Four this year — and his mother holds him accountable.
“She has always made me write down my goals and chase them,” Winston said.
Clearly, the combination of traits is working.
Winston has developed into a player of the year candidate, leading the sixth-ranked Spartans (23-5, 14-3 Big Ten) as they contend for a Big Ten title and perhaps top seeding in the NCAA Tournament while two of their top players are injured. They are tied with No. 14 Purdue for first place entering their game at Indiana (14-14, 5-12) on Saturday.
Winston is the only Division I player, as of Wednesday, averaging at least 19 points and seven assists while connecting on 40-plus percent of 3-point attempts. And, he’s coming off perhaps his best performance. He scored 27 points and had eight assists to lead Michigan State to a 77-70 win over rival Michigan on the road.
“We’ve had a lot of point guards come into this building,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said. “I’ve coached some great ones. That was as good a performance as you’re going to see.”
Winston was named the Big Ten player of the week after averaging 27.5 points, eight assists and 3.5 rebounds while making half of his 3-point shots in wins over then-No. 7 Michigan and Rutgers. He has joined three players in conference history to earn the honor at least five times in a season, putting him in an elite class with Purdue’s Glenn Robinson and Caleb Swanigan along with Ohio State’s Evan Turner.
Just four players in Michigan State history have scored 1,200 points and had 600 rebounds
in a career: 2016 national player of the year Denzel Valentine, 2000 national champion Mateen Cleaves and 1986 Big Ten player of the year Scott Skiles.
“I never thought he could become what he is becoming,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And, I still think he still has a big ceiling of where he can get. He has changed his body a lot.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Detroiter has reshaped his physique, making more mature decisions than he used to for snacks and meals.