Cassius Winston: A Legendary Spartan

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Cassius Winston salutes the crowd during Senior Day. Photo//msuspartans.com

Winston’s career at Michigan State will be forever remembered by fans. Even if you cheer for the Maize and Blue, there’s an utter respect and appreciation for Cassius’s greatness on and off the court. 

Cassius began his Spartan career primarily as a backup point guard behind Eron Harris and Lourawls Nairn. He averaged 6.7 points and 5.2 assists per game his first year while playing just over 20 minutes per game. The Spartans had a rough season, going 20-15 with a defeat to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Cassius showed flashes of potential in his freshman campaign, while leading the team in assists despite only starting five games. He flew under the radar as a Michigan State prospect with Miles Bridges accumulating most of the praise in his freshman season. It was clear that Winston had to improve if he wanted to be great.

The hopes were high for the Spartans in Cassius’s sophomore season and he and the team mostly delivered on those expectations. Winston stepped into a starting lineup that featured a returning Bridges, Nick Ward, and future NBA star Jaren Jackson Jr. 

Winston took a massive leap in his sophomore year, scoring 12.6 points per game and dishing out 6.9 assists. His season long efficiency was the biggest story, shooting 52 percent from the floor and a lights out 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Spartans were bounced from the tourney in the second round again, but it was clear that this would become the savvy point guards’ team. 

Cassius was arguably the best player in the country not named Zion Williamson in his junior season. He averaged 18.8 points per game and 7.5 assists to be named a finalist for the Wooden Award. This was finally the season where the Spartans performed well in March, winning the Big Ten Tournament and making it to the Final Four. 

Cassius was instrumental in the postseason, making multiple highlight plays. To win the Big Ten Tournament, Winston made a game winning layup with 30 seconds left to defeat Michigan. In the Elite Eight against Zion and the No. 1 seeded Duke Blue Devils, Cassius was able to run the remaining six seconds off the clock by dribbling around the entire Duke team to secure their spot in the Final Four. In terms of his impact on the court, this might be the best individual season by a Michigan State player ever.  

In his senior year, Winston was primed to avenge the loss in the Final Four and build on what was the best season of his college career. This year there were lofty expectations with the Spartans being ranked first overall in the preseason poll. 

The year started off with heartbreak as Cassius’s brother Zachary commited suicide. Zachary was a basketball player and finance major at Albion College and he and Cassius were inseparable. There was a noticeable difference in Cash’s attitude as he struggled to cope with the tragic loss, but he still was able to perform on the court. He averaged a similar 18.6 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. 

He had plenty of highlights throughout the season. Cash went for 32 points in a January victory against the Michigan Wolverines. He was able to knock down a half court shot with the first half expiring against the Maryland Terrapins, helping the Spartants earn a huge road win against a top-ranked opponent. 

The last shot of his career was one of his best at Michigan State, knocking down a long step back three as a proper send off on Senior Day at the Breslin Center. Little did he and the rest of the college basketball world know that this was the last shot of his career. There’s no telling how far MSU could’ve gone in the tourney, but we do know that Winston would’ve made some more memories.

There’s a real argument for Cassius Winston having the best career in Michigan State history. The teams they played on did not have as much postseason success as some of the other greats at the school, but Winston’s statistical output compares with the best of the best. He passed Mateen Cleaves for all time assists at MSU and is among the school leaders in points and career starts. 

Winston is also expected to hear his name called at the back end of the first round or front of the second at the 2020 NBA Draft.

Just because his impressive Michigan State career is over does not mean fans have heard the last of Winston. His skills will translate well to the NBA and can lead him to a successful career in the league.