Coming off a Final Four run and Big Ten title, Mateen Cleaves announced he would return to Michigan State for his senior season on May 6, 1999. Eleven months later, he led the Spartans to Tom Izzo’s only NCAA title.
Cassius Winston hopes to repeat the feat, making the same decision 20 years after Cleaves.
The Big Ten player of the year and All-America point guard – coming off a Final Four appearance earlier this month – announced he will bypass the NBA draft process to come back to MSU for his senior season, with his Spartans considered by a number of early prognosticators a front-runner for the 2020 national championship.
“Playing in the NBA has always been my dream. But I have other dreams as well,” Winston said in a release. “This was an incredible season with an amazing group of teammates, but I believe there is still more to accomplish. From the moment the season ended, I started thinking about what else I could do and how I could improve, to help us reach the goals we want to reach.
“It was surreal to be compared to some of the all-time great Spartans during the tournament because in my mind I still have something left to prove. Those goals will motivate me throughout the offseason. It will always be my goal to play in the NBA, but that’s a dream that can wait a year. I look forward to improving as a player, and continuing to get stronger. I know my teammates are equally committed to improving and I can’t wait for what our future holds.”
The news came shortly after Winston’s classmate, Nick Ward, announced he would not return next season while entering his name in the NBA draft for the second straight season.