In a surprise to nobody who has followed Michigan State Spartans basketball closely all year, junior point guard Cassius Winston was named as a first team All-American selection by the Associated Press.
Winston is the heart and soul of this year’s MSU men’s hoops team and truly earned this honor. Winston leads Michigan State in points per game (18.9), assists per game (7.6), minutes per game (a ridiculous 33.4), three pointers made (82) and steals (39). But it’s more than his on-court statistics that wow you — it’s his intangibles like incredible court vision, his high basketball IQ, the ability to seemingly always be on the same page with his teammates and coaches, and most importantly, his leadership.
To the surprise of some, including myself, Winston was not elected a team captain in the preseason. He wasn’t a very vocal guy at the time, and is still as humble as they come. But in addition to completely transforming his game this season, Winston made huge strides as the leader of this team, and was eventually named a third captain beside the injured Joshua Langford and senior Matt McQuaid.
When Langford — the player on MSU’s offense most likely to create his own shot — was lost early in the season, it was Winston who stepped up his offensive game and took over as the go-to-scorer. When Nick Ward went down it was once again Winston leading the charge, facilitating and picking up the slack on offense. When MSU needed someone to take over against Bradley in Round 1, it was Winston who put the team on his back. When Duke jumped out to a nine-point lead in the Elite Eight — guess who sparked a 14-0 run to close the first half and calmed his guys down. Winston has made great improvements as a defender this season as well.
Tom Izzo is on record as saying this may not the most talented team he’s had, but that it very well may be the most mentally tough group he’s ever coached. Winston is a huge part of that. The guys look to him in clutch time.
Winston is joined on the AP All-American first team by the two Duke Freshmen he just helped take down — RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson. Tennessee’s Grant Williams and Ja Morant of Murray State also made the prestigious list.
Sporting News also named Winston a first team All-American in March. He received second team honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Overall, Winston was named a second team consensus All-American — he fell just one point shy from making the consensus first team. The MSU point guard also took home Big Ten Player of the Year honors this season.
Congrats, Cassius! I can’t think of anybody more deserving.