Nick Ward, the former Michigan State Spartans big man, is getting his shot in the NBA. He signed a summer league deal with the Atlanta Hawks, according to multiple reports.
Former Michigan State forward Nick Ward has agreed to play for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League.— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) June 21, 2019
Fellow Spartan Kenny Goins signed a similar deal with the Denver Nuggets, according to The Athletic’s Michael Scotto.
Former Michigan State Spartans forward Kenny Goins has agreed to play Summer League with the Denver Nuggets, a league source told @TheAthleticNBA.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 22, 2019
Ward left Michigan State with one year of eligibility remaining, but went undrafted on Thursday night’s NBA draft. Goins, who graduated from the program, also went undrafted.
Let’s discuss Ward first. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 12.9 points points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game during the regular season of his junior campaign. He also shot 58 percent from the floor, 65.3 percent from the free throw line and made both of his three-point attempts.
Ward was also named All-Big Ten third-team by the coaches and media. He had a strong start to the year, but a hairline fracture in his hand forced him to sit out the final five games of the regular season. He returned in a limited capacity during the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, but came off of the bench. His conditioning never really got back on track, though, and he would only play sparingly — never playing more than 20 minutes in any postseason game.
Ward played in 104 career games for MSU, with 80 starts. He averaged 13.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 1.4 bpg, while shooting 60.5 percent from the field, 62.9 percent from the free throw line, and, well, in a very limited capacity, 100 percent from three-point land.
For Ward, he participated in least two pre-draft workouts with NBA teams. He reportedly worked out for the Detroit Pistons — who ended up signing his Spartans teammate, Matt McQuaid — and Orlando Magic leading up to the draft.
Now, the challenge for Ward is to try to play his way into training camp. His first task, like McQuaid and Goins, will be to make an impact during Summer League in Las Vegas. If he impresses there, he will earn a training camp invite where he will have the chance to earn an opening day roster spot, or a two-way contract with Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks.
Per Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press, Ward had this to say on his NBA opportunity:
“It’s just only the beginning,” Ward said. “I’m just about to prove myself, like I always have, and do whatever I can.”
Focusing back on Goins now, he is a player that will live in Spartans lore forever. The game-winning shot against Duke that sent MSU to the Final Four this season is something that fans will remember forever. Add in the fact that he is a former walk-on, and every single Spartans fan is going to be rooting for Goins’ professional success.
He’ll now have a chance to play with former Spartan Gary Harris and a very talented Denver Nuggets team. Of course, it’s just a summer league deal and Goins has a long road ahead of him, but we all know how hard he will work to try to make the team. He’ll have to try to follow a similar path to the one mentioned above for Ward.
Goins averaged 7.9 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game and 1.3 blocks per game as a senior. He shot 40.5 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from three-point land and 72.9 percent from the free throw line. He played in 131 career games for the Spartans and totaled 544 points, 671 rebounds, 167 assists, 104 blocks and 50 steals.
But similar to McQuaid, Goins found other ways to impact games with his tough defense, ability to box out and crash the glass, and his infectious energy. Nothing proves this more than his box score against Louisville where he didn’t attempt a single shot, but grabbed 17 rebounds with two assists and a block.
It’s hard to predict what the NBA futures hold for Ward, Goins and McQuaid, but we here at The Only Colors will be rooting for all three and wish them all the best of luck!