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‘BTPowerhouse 25’ - #7 Nick Ward

BTPowerhouse's staff counts down the best players in the Big Ten heading into the 2017-’18 season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Kansas vs Michigan State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In the months leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.

Today's edition will take a brief look at Nick Ward of Michigan State, who came in at No. 7 in the rankings. The Spartans enter this upcoming season as the Big Ten favorites and as a program many expect to contend for a National Championship.

'BTPowerhouse 25' - #7 Nick Ward:

  • Eligibility: Sophomore
  • Career Totals: 35 games, 694 minutes, 485 points, 227 rebounds, 14 assists
  • 2016-17 Averages: 19.8 min, 13.9 pts, 6.5 rebs, 0.4 asts, 1.5 blks, 0.3 stls
  • Positional Role: Power Forward

Michigan State is pegged as the Big Ten’s favorites this year and a big part of that is because of Nick Ward. Last year, Ward was forced into a bigger role because of the injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter and, by the end of the season, he was one of the best bigs in the league.

Ward reached double digits in points in 14 of the Spartans’ final 16 games, yet was snubbed from the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Now, Ward will look to take the next step and become even more of a weapon on a dynamic Spartans’ squad.

Player Strengths

Ward will begin this season as the go-to scorer in the post for Michigan State. At 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, Ward has the size to bang it out in the paint with anyone across the league. To go with his size, Ward has plenty of post moves and a solid hook shot to get it over taller defenders.

He also has proven to be a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor. Last year, he was second on the team in rebounds at 6.5 per game. Even more importantly, he led the team and was fifth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game at 2.8. It should also be noted that his stats may have been even better had he seen more time on the floor — he averaged under 20 minutes per game last year.

He, ultimately, fits the mold of a perfect Big Ten power forward — he has size, can score in the paint and rebounds at a high level.

Areas for Improvement

While Ward has plenty of positives in his game, there’s still room for improvement in a number of other areas. One noticeable improvement Ward must make is his free throw shooting. He finished the season shooting 61.5 percent, which was one of the weakest of the players who consistently played for the Spartans last year. He also led the team in free throw attempts with 200. The next player only had 92 attempts so if he’s getting to the line that often he needs to start cashing in at a higher rate.

Another area he must improve is his ability to stay on the floor. He only averaged 19.8 minutes per game last year. Part of that was because of his conditioning, but a majority of that was because he picked up too many fouls. He led the team in fouls at 2.8 per game, and too often had to sit down because of foul trouble. Developing a jump shot would also be a big boost for Ward.

Player Projection

Ward proved last season that he has the tools to be arguably the best post player in the Big Ten this year. That’s of course if he improves upon what he did last year, which I expect to happen. Ward has the backbone skills and talent to be great again this year, and I anticipate he’ll be an All-Big Ten selection.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that Michigan State has a lot more depth in the post this year and that could result in worse statistics for Ward. If his numbers are down, I wouldn’t jump to the whole “sophomore slump” but credit it to the Spartans having more options in the front court then last year.

‘BT Powerhouse 25’ Rankings: