Jaden Akins

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Jaden Akins’ injury should be seen as opportunity for MSU basketball

Sophomore guard Jaden Akins just underwent surgery and will miss a month, at least. But his absence should be seen as an opportunity.

News broke on Tuesday after Jaden Akins, a budding sophomore for MSU, underwent surgery over the weekend to repair a stress reaction in his foot.

Although his timetable for a return didn’t signal that he’d miss any regular-season action, it still brought to the surface some concerns about the team’s depth.

As we all know by now, Tom Izzo decided to pocket some scholarships so as to not reach for guys who he didn’t think would help out right away. It’s not often you see a college basketball coach go out without a full roster of scholarship players, but Izzo is trying something new. He’s taking a chance.

Hopefully that risk will pay off, but if an injury trend continues into the season, the Spartans may be doomed. That’s why there was some panic around the fanbase when it was announced that Akins would miss a month after foot surgery.

What many don’t realize is that this injury and subsequent recovery time is going to present opportunities to guys who need to grow in certain areas.

Let me preface this by saying, yes, I acknowledge that Akins, too, needs to grow as a player and it would have been critical for him to stay healthy in the month leading up to the season. Development is key and this might hurt Akins a bit early on in his sophomore year.

But it’s not all bad news.

With Akins out for the next month of practice and conditioning, other guys will be forced to step up.

Pierre Brooks is the first name that comes to mind. He’s going to have a chance to really play that wing role potentially with the starters. His confidence could grow while playing next to AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker. Brooks needs more wing reps to get comfortable and after a big summer, this may be a perfect opportunity for him to take that next step on both ends of the court.

Tre Holloman is another name to keep an eye on with Akins sidelined for the next month. The incoming freshman will also get a chance to play that role on the wing even though he’s more of a point. He’ll be able to get more minutes at guard and hopefully get into a better flow offensively since his defense is currently his calling card.

And Malik Hall is taking on a new role this year on the wing. He’s going to ease into a more natural position and not necessarily be forced into the post anymore. Akins’ absence may force him to guard perimeter players in practice more and get him more comfortable with that defense.

Michigan State may not have its first action until Nov. 1 as the exhibition opener and Akins may still be held out then, but the team is still going to benefit from this in the long run.

Michigan State basketball

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Predicting Michigan State basketball’s future starting 5 with Xavier Booker

Xavier Booker Day has come and gone and Tom Izzo was the biggest winner.

For months, Izzo has been working on showing Booker that he’s the top priority for Michigan State basketball’s 2023 class and that effort didn’t go unnoticed. Booker released a top 10 earlier last week and he only needed four days to decide that Michigan State was home.

Booker becomes Izzo’s top-ranked commit ever, sitting at No. 1 in the Rivals rankings and No. 3 on 247Sports. Jabari Parker, Josh Jackson, Caleb Swanigan, Brian Bowen, and Cliff Alexander can no longer hurt us.

With this pledge, Booker becomes the second verbal in the class, joining four-star point guard Jeremy Fears who’s ranked No. 42 in the class and helped lead Team USA’s U17 team to a title.

There are probably going to be 1-2 more additions to the class, but we already have a good (albeit way-too-early) projection for the starting five for the 2023-24 season.

Hint: It has some scary potential.

PG: AJ Hoggard, Senior

How good will a senior AJ Hoggard be? If his progression from his freshman to his sophomore year is any indication, he’s going to be an All-American. While that may be a bit premature, he has the look of the next great Michigan State point guard and if he can cut the turnovers down like he did in the second half of his sophomore season, he’s going to be very good. Add in a shooting touch as well, and he’ll be one of the greats because of his aggressiveness, leadership, and defense already in place and at plus levels.

SG: Jaden Akins, Junior

All aboard the Jaden Akins hype train. If you’re not on it before the start of the season, it’s going to be jam-packed by December of 2022. As a freshman, he averaged 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds and showed plus athleticism with a knack for defending the perimeter at a high level. He’s the perfect off-ball guard in this system and by his junior year, he may actually be the best player on the team. This backcourt will be lethal.

SF: Pierre Brooks, Junior

I’m going to buy some Pierre Brooks stock now because he’s done a really good job of transforming his body after an uneventful freshman season where he may not have been in the best shape. Down 20 pounds from the end of his freshman year, Brooks showed off in the Moneyball Pro-Am and put up 40-point games pretty much every time out. While Moneyball is not a good indicator of what to expect (see: Tum Tum Nairn), it still goes to show that his confidence is rising. I think we’re going to see him grow into a fan favorite and a go-to scorer by his junior year at the three.

PF: Xavier Booker, Freshman

The Xavier Booker commitment is still being felt days later and it’s given Tom Izzo some extra juice for his 2023 recruiting class. There are rumors swirling of four-star wing Gehrig Dormand joining the class and he’d be a nice depth piece on the wing, but Booker is the headliner of the class. Izzo’s top all-time commit is ranked the No. 3 player in the class on 247Sports and No. 1 overall on Rivals and he’s going to be in that Jaren Jackson Jr.-type role. He’ll be able to play inside-out and be a matchup nightmare for defenses. All he needs to do is improve his defense and he’ll be an easy one-and-done (he probably will be anyway).

C: Jaxon Kohler, Sophomore

Last, but certainly not least, is incoming freshman Jaxon Kohler who is going to be a star sophomore by the time Booker gets to East Lansing. A frontcourt with Kohler and Booker is going to be insanely effective on the offensive end and then you add in Mady Sissoko off the bench and there are three guys who will be starting-caliber in the post. Kohler thrives with his elite footwork and a year in the Izzo system will only make him better on both ends. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him averaging a double-double.

This team will be Izzo’s next best shot at a national title with scores from the one to the five.

Add in a bench of Jeremy Fears, Tre Holloman, Sissoko, Carson Cooper, and another 1-2 pledges (Devin Royal, Normand, Coen Carr) from the 2023 class, and Michigan State has the deepest team in the Big Ten with national title potential.

And there’s always a chance Malik Hall, Joey Hauser, or Tyson Walker could come back for another year which would bolster that depth even more.

No. 2 for Izzo could be on the horizon, folks.