Kayla’s MVP’s: Cassius Winston

Welcome to Kayla’s MVP’s, a new column where I will talk about some of my favorite athletes. Today I will be discussing one of my favorite basketball players: Cassius Winston.

Cassius Winston is a former basketball player for Michigan State University. He completed his college career with the abrupt ending of the 2019-20 season, averaging 18.6 points per game and 5.6 assists per game. Winston also finished his time at Michigan State with accolades that most college players can only dream of.

Winston celebrates during Michigan State’s game with in-state rival Michigan. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

Winston’s final season at Michigan State was completed amongst the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, his season faced other challenges early on with the passing of his brother, Zachary, in November.

The call came in after midnight, and the team was staying at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on Michigan State’s campus in preparation for the game the next day. Zachary Winston had stepped in front of a train just outside Albion College’s campus, where he and his brother, Khy, played D3 basketball. Winston was met in the hotel hallway by assistant coach Mike Garland and the rest of the team. Head coach Tom Izzo and Winston’s family joined him at the hotel later that night.

Winston poses with his brothers Zachary and Khy before Michigan State’s scrimmage against Albion College. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

Outside of his family, Winston had always found joy in basketball. Even after receiving the news of his brother’s passing, Winston took the court in a game against Binghamton University the next day, which the Spartans won 100-47. However, it became hard for him to focus on basketball when he had so many other things to worry about.

Playing basketball doesn’t bring the same joy, the same freedom, the same kind of outlet. Usually on the court, you feel free. You feel open. Like you can make anything happen. But now, at certain times I don’t even want to be out there. I would rather go talk to my brother, be somewhere with my family. That’s where it gets tough.

Cassius Winston on trying to focus on basketball after the death of his brother
Winston wears an Albion College t-shirt during shoot-around. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

In the end, Winston managed to finish the season. The team honored Zachary by wearing a “Smoothie” patch on their jerseys throughout the season. Winston also found a way to honor his brother before every game, doing their handshake as he walks out onto the court before tip-off.

I can finally say now that the year is over, I couldn’t do what he did. And yet it’s my job to push him to do more. But I could not have done what he did.

Tom Izzo, MSU basketball Head Coach, on Winston continuing the season after his loss
Winston shares a hug with teammate Gabe Brown in Michigan State’s 76-73 win over Seton Hall. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

While the 2019-20 college basketball season ended abruptly and without any championship tournaments being played, Winston ended his career the best way anyone could wish for.

Winston remained a national player of the year candidate throughout the season, while still grieving his brother. He also became Michigan State’s and the Big Ten’s all-time leader in assists (890 assists) and set a career high in scoring against the University of Michigan on January 5 with 32 points.

He also helped lead the team to three consecutive Big Ten regular season championships and to a Final Four in 2019.

Winston celebrates Michigan State’s third straight Big Ten championship with his teammates and the Izzone, the Spartan student section. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

Winston’s college career came to an end on March 8 with a 80-69 win over Ohio State. While at the time nobody knew that the forthcoming COVID-19 pandemic would bring the sports world to a halt and cancel all upcoming NCAA basketball tournaments, Winston had an excellent senior night. He scored 27 points and helped Michigan State win their third straight Big Ten championship.

Winston subbed out for a final time at Michigan State’s Breslin Center in his final college game. In a years-old tradition, he bent down and kissed the Spartan logo in the middle of the court.

You hear about the kiss, you got to kiss the floor, the kiss coming. Then it’s your turn, and when it’s your turn, you’re like, ‘This is it. This is my last time out here.’ That’s probably the moment where you kind of realize, like, this it for me, the back end of it, not the end of my career, but my time here as a Spartan is coming to an end.

Cassius Winston on his final game for MSU
Cassius Winston kisses the Spartan logo at the Breslin Center after subbing out for the final time on senior night. [Source: Michigan State Basketball]

Currently, Winston is predicted to be a first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. In Bleacher Report’s 2020 NBA Mock Draft, writer Jonathan Wasserman predicted Winston to be drafted with the 28th pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Looking for an immediate contributor, the Lakers should be eyeing Winston, who’s worth betting on to overcome athletic limitations based on his skill, production, and intangibles.

Jonathan Wasserman on his first round prediction for Cassius Winston

Overall, Cassius Winston’s career at Michigan State has been a memorable one, filled with triumph and grief. He found a way to succeed in one of the NCAA’s best basketball programs, solidifying why he was my choice for my first column entry. I am extremely proud to say that Cassius Winston was a Spartan, and I hope to see him thrive in the NBA. Go Green!

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