Charlotte Hornets

Michigan State star on Hornets' radar says he's already a different player

Michigan State's Miles Bridges told reporters during the NBA draft combine that he would meet with the Charlotte Hornets.
Michigan State's Miles Bridges told reporters during the NBA draft combine that he would meet with the Charlotte Hornets. AP

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges, who is definitely on the Charlotte Hornets’ radar for the 11th pick, went on a big-time diet this spring.

At 6-7 and best offensively in the post, Bridges isn’t exactly an NBA power forward or a small forward. One of the things suggested to improve his perception among NBA teams was to drop a few pounds. He says he’s 20 pounds lighter than he was with the Spartans.

“I feel great at 220. I can move quicker and be more explosive,” Bridges said during a media interview at the NBA draft combine on Thursday.

“It’s was tough. I stayed away from fried foods and drank a lot of water. My agent recommended it to me after talking to teams about me.”

Bridges said he’s scheduled to meet with Hornets management Friday in Chicago. He's already met with seven other NBA teams, and the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers — the two teams selecting directly in front of the Hornets — also are among his meetings Friday.

Bridges had enough impact as a freshman that he could have turned pro a year ago confident he’d be a first-round pick. His averages as a sophomore (17.1 points and seven rebounds) were very similar to his freshman stats, but he says there’s no doubt he benefited from waiting.

“I told (teams) I stayed because I matured. And they respect that about me,” Bridges said. “I feel like I would have been ready for it, but I’m more ready for it now.”

When Bridges is asked what position he best fits in the NBA, he says he isn’t any one position, and that will be a plus. His defense, in particular, he views as wide-spectrum.

What still needs improvement?

“My ballhandling and creating my own shot,” Bridges answered. “That’s all they're worried about.”

Coaching leg up

Alabama point guard Collin Sexton made his college choice in large part to play for Avery Johnson, who played his position at the NBA level, and also coached in the pros.

Johnson has called Sexton the fastest player with the ball he has seen. A 6-3 guard, Sexton averaged 19.2 points per game in his one college season before turning pro.

Sexton said he met with Hornets management this week and anticipates working out in Charlotte before the draft. Johnson gave Sexton a heavy diet of the pick-and-roll opportunities. But he also prepared him for playing some off the ball in the NBA. That would be useful if the Hornets drafted him, since Kemba Walker already is established at the point with two All-Star selections.

“Absolutely. That’s big,” Sexton said of being effective without always serving as the lead guard. “The NBA is evolving: You can’t have the ball in your hands all the time. Chris Paul doesn’t have the ball in his hands all the time (with the Houston Rockets), but he plays hand-in-hand with (James) Harden, who is a terrific scorer.”

Sexton’s relative weakness is his jump shot; he was 33.4 percent from the college 3-point line.

“I’ve been working on the 3-ball. If I get that down pat, they’re going to have to play me honest. If they get up on me (defensively to guard the jump shot), I’ll just get around them.”

Crazy limbs

Texas big man Mohamed Bamba might not be the tallest player measured at the NBA combine this year, but his length is easily the most striking.

Bamba, who averaged 3.7 shots blocked in his one season with the Longhorns, had a wingspan of 7-foot-10, three inches longer than second on that list, Udoka Azubuike of Kansas. Bamba also had the longest standing reach, of 9 feet and 7 ½ inches.

Bamba was third in height without shoes here, at 6-11 ¼.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell