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Michigan State basketball: 5 players who would’ve benefitted from “one more year”

One more year could’ve done wonders for these guys.



Michigan State basketball
© Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

There have been plenty of “what if” players in Michigan State basketball history. What if these guys stayed in EL longer?

Every college program has those players that could’ve benefitted from one more year (and the program would have benefitted, too). Michigan State basketball is no exception.

There have been some players like Cassius Winston or Joey Hauser who have had the opportunity to come back one more year but it would not have affected their professional careers much. There are other players that fans will say, “They left too early.”

This article is about the five players that could have benefited the most if they had come back for one more year.

1. Deyonta Davis, PF/C (2015-16)

Deyonta Davis is one of two players in recent memory that Michigan State fans would say “he left way too early” or “he should have come back.” He was a highly-rated basketball recruit out of Michigan who had a lot of potential but was very raw. Michigan State fans saw that potential, especially on the defensive end, but never really got it going on the offensive end.

Typically players averaging under 10 points per game don’t get drafted but because of his potential, Deyonta got selected at No. 31 by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Being an early-second-round pick showed the Grizzlies saw something in Deyonta but he would have to work on his game. Deyonta was only with the Grizzlies for two seasons and then would bounce around to multiple different teams in the G-League. After a few years in the G-League, he went overseas and is now currently playing in Taiwan.

Davis’ decision to enter the NBA draft after one season was questionable but he did get his chance and things did not work out. Because of that, even Tom Izzo has said that losing Deyonta was one of the players that he really regrets the most. Imagine what type of player and team Michigan State could have been if Deyonta came back for this sophomore year.

Deyonta is just one of the two biggest names from Michigan State basketball that could have benefited from coming back for a sophomore season.

2. Max Christie, SG (2021-22)

Max Christie is another one of the recent names that come to mind when you think of a player who would’ve benefitted from “one more year” especially because of how much belief Izzo had in him.

Under Izzo, freshmen don’t typically play that much or they might not have a ton of chances to play through mistakes but Christie was an exception. While Max did have some games where he flashed his potential, at times he struggled with his shot. No one ever questioned the potential that Max had. You could see how Max could have been the next great shooter at Michigan State if he would have stayed for his sophomore season.

While some fans thought he should have stayed, he and his family thought it was best to go into the NBA draft and he got drafted by the Lakers in the second round.

While Christie is going to have time to show that he can be an impactful NBA player, it just is hard to not imagine what it would have been like if he came back for one more year. If he did, he could have possibly been a lottery pick if he could have a more consistent shot and an even better NBA contract.

I’m sure Michigan State fans wish Max the best of luck in the NBA but it was very difficult to see him leave after one year.

3. Aaron Henry, SF (2018-21)

Let’s just take a minute to imagine a senior Aaron Henry. He had a chance to have a special senior season but after his breakout junior campaign but, like the other players above, he declared for the NBA draft early.

Unlike the other players, fans understood why he left. While fans understood it, Henry is another player that could have benefited from one final season. Maybe asking for a senior season is a little much for Aaron especially because of how much Michigan State should appreciate what he did. Without Henry, Michigan State would not have extended its NCAA tournament streak. That run that he had in 2020-21 might have been one of the best we have seen from a player at Michigan State as he basically carried the Spartans into the tournament.

A senior Henry in 2021-22 may have eliminated the team’s struggles and if his play could have continued like it did those last six games and his shot improved even more, that could’ve impacted his NBA career positively.

4. Nick Ward, PF/C (2016-19)

This is probably the one that most people reading this might disagree with but I think Nick Ward coming back one more year would have helped both him and Michigan State.

Some people might argue that Ward leaving early led to Xavier Tillman becoming the player that he is today and that’s probably true but imagine how good that 2019-20 Michigan State basketball team would’ve been with Nick. He was getting better every year (prior to an injury) and having a confident Tillman and a senior Ward would have been a great combination for Michigan State.

After his junior season, Ward did not get drafted but he has had a successful career outside of the NBA. Could Nick have been drafted if he came back for his senior season? I do think he could have especially if he could keep his efficiency but put up more shots. Would Nick have been a first-round pick? Definitely not because he didn’t develop a jumper but he could have had a chance to go into the NBA which is every player’s dream.

It would have been fun to see a senior Ward on the court, especially after how much he had improved from his freshman to junior season.

5. Marcus Taylor, PG (2000-02)

Marcus Taylor declared for the 2002 NBA Draft after his sophomore year. That sophomore year saw a big jump from his play as a freshman and because of that, he got drafted at No. 52 in the second round. He finally had a chance to start and show that he could play as a sophomore. He played almost 35 minutes per game and averaged 16.8 points.

After a great season like that, is asking for another season too much?

In this case, especially after where he was drafted, I don’t think it is. Taylor only played in the NBA for one season and then went on to have a basketball career with several other teams. While he did have a professional career, you have to wonder what one more season could’ve done for him, especially for his development and possibly play in the NBA.

You could imagine what one more season at Michigan State could have done for all five of these players as well as the Spartans. I truly believe that if each of these players had come back for one more year, it could have impacted their professional careers in a more positive way.

As fans, I think we all agree that if these guys had come back, they would have made a huge impact and could have been the difference between deep runs in the NCAA tournament to possible championships. While we only have to imagine these situations, most of these players did play professional basketball for a while, just not in the NBA — Max Christie is showing that he may have a long NBA career. That is the risk you take when you leave college basketball early.

You never know what will happen and for these players, could their path have changed if they were to come back for one more season? That question will never be answered but it is fun imagining that scenario and it’s a great thing that they all got a chance to have professional careers.