It has been a special summer on many fronts this year, most of them of rather unfortunate and saddening nature. But in terms of recruiting Michigan State Spartans basketball head coach Tom Izzo and his staff have been on an absolutely unparalleled run that basically secures the program‘s dominance for at least the next few years.
With Jaden Akins Izzo has landed his fifth Top-100 recruit while other coaches seem to be still figuring out how this Zoom thing or a computer for that matter works. Nobody knows just yet how the future for college basketball looks like in the next couple of months, but by adding major league talent across the board MSU has made sure that their fans can look into an exciting future. A future that could prove to be one of the best periods in the Izzo era.
Jaden Akins has long been rumored to be a heavy Michigan State lean so the news of his commitment last week didn‘t come as a huge surprise to many people. Adding him seems like the final piece of the puzzle for an absolutely ridiculous recruiting haul this summer. In the future, MSU might be a bit short on quality point guards (as Rocket Watts is considered by many to leave early for the NBA at some point), but with Akins in the fold, alongside A.J. Hoggard, this problem is definitely solved. He also has a chance to be part of a legendary recruiting class with Max Christie, Pierre Brooks and if the two “EBs,“ Emoni Bates and Enoch Boakye, decide to reclassify.
Akins is from Farmington, Michigan, and got his natural basketball instincts from his father Jerome, who starred as a point guard at New Mexico State from 1979 to 1981. He describes himself as a normal teenager who likes to play video games or spend time on his phone. He is a rather quiet character, but definitely possesses an inner fire and a clear idea of how to achieve his goals. He first found his way into the scouts‘ notebooks in 2017 and from then on slowly but surely climbed his way up the recruiting rankings. Most people consider him underrated though as many services only have him listed as a low level four star recruit who not long ago wasn‘t even seen as a top-100 player. His game tape, though, the commitment to a major school and his transfer to Ypsilanti Prep Academy where he will team with Bates should quickly change any wrong perception about his immense physical talent.
All of the Michigan State coaches were involved in the recruiting process, one they got started in at a very early stage. That impressed Akins and gave them a heads up from the get go. Akins has praised the family atmosphere at Michigan State, their winning history and the fact that they are always in the NCAA Tournament. The COVID-19 pandemic prohibited him from taking any official visits but he has been to East Lansing many times. Other colleges interested in him included the likes of Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Michigan, Iowa, Mississippi State and Xavier.
What others had to say
“When you talk about his improvement and the speed he has and how much better he can become there aren‘t many better in the `21 class at the point guard spot. He kind of reminds you of De‘Aaron Fox, who went to Kentucky and now is with the Sacramento Kings. He‘s a lefty with good size, just super, super quick, can shoot it, is explosive and has a really good feel for the pace of the game.”
-Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans
What Jaden Akins had to say
“I‘m just ready to get there and work. That‘s my message to the fans, I am going to work as hard as I can. The fans should get ready for something special to happen with all of the talent we have coming in.” - Jaden Akins
High school & EYBL
Akins played for the Farmington High Falcons for three years and was the clear cut superstar for his team during his junior year (as you can see in the video below of him battling fellow MSU recruit Pierre Brooks). He wasn‘t playing as your traditional point guard who had the ball in his hands all the time as Farmington played a lot of smaller guards with good ball handling skills and they also needed Akins‘ scoring off the ball. Nonetheless he proved that he has a very good feel for the game and his decision making (a tough job for a combo guard) was suberb most of the time. During his final season at Farmington he averaged around 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
For his final year in high school Akins will transfer to Ypsilanti Prep Academy, the prep school started by the father of Emoni Bates, Elgin. There he will team up with the generational talent plus many other high profile players, and as Ypsi Prep does not fall under MHSAA restrictions, the academy should be able to play a challenging schedule against top opponents. Akins‘ has proved himself against high end competition already though in EYBL where he played for Detroit‘s program “The Family.” Here he is paired, among others, with Pierre Brooks and he has also played with Enoch Boakye before at a Top-100 basketball camp.
Akins has tremendous size for the point guard position, standing at 6-foot-3 and featuring a 6-foot6-inch wingspan. He is a very long player who knows how to use that size to his advantage. He weighs in currently at about 170 pounds but has said that he wants to add atleast 15 and maybe even 20 pounds before he‘s entering college (without losing explosiveness). The rather lanky Akins will need that extra weight to further withstand the more physical game at the next level.
Akins is considered a quiet kid who doesn‘t do a lot of talking on or off the court. He loves to let his game do the talking for him yet he is by no means shy or passive. He has an inner confidence about him and knows what he can and can‘t do. He loves to work hard and has stated many times that he wants to be coached — a must for any MSU player under Tom Izzo. Akins had good grades in high school, his education is important to him and in interviews he comes across as a very well-spoken, high-character kid. He compares his game not only to De‘Aaron Fox like many pundits but has also said he likes to watch Ja Morant. He is a true basketball junkie and says whenever a game is on he will watch it.
One word you will hear a lot from people describing Jaden Akins is explosive and rightfully so. Man, can he shift into a different gear when going to the basket and when he rises up don‘t be surprised by him finishing with authority. Akins‘ athleticism is elite by all accounts and paired with his dominant size for the position he offers a total physical package that not many players in college will be able to match once he sets foot into East Lansing. He can play both guard positions but definitely considers himself a point guard. In fact he has said that the MSU coaches have pitched him on being “the point guard of the future for the Spartans,” a program that has long been known for churning out top level playmakers.
Akins interprets the role of the point guard very differently from guys like Cassius Winston or Mateen Cleaves. Part of it was his role in high school but part of it is also that he doesn‘t possess the absolute natural feel for the position like other more traditional playmakers. He doesn‘t keep his dribble as long, he doesn‘t survey the floor as much and he is a scorer first before he is a passer (said so himself). By no means, though, should this discourage people as Akins still has plenty court vision and once he starts to play with bigger, more athletic frontcourt players, he should be able to make a living of driving in the lane and then dumping the ball off for easy baskets. It could come with a transition period and his decision making will be tested but he should be able to learn in that regard.
In terms of his skillset Akins brings a lot to the table and can score in a variety of ways. He is a fast, quick twitch athlete which enables him to change situations on the court in an instant and control the tempo of the game all by himself. He is good shooter even if his motion is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes he needs to square his body up more, then he loses balance jumping up and almost shoots it moving sideways. Incredibly though he makes quite a solid percentage of shots not looking particularly good so there‘s that. His size makes it possible for him to rise up from anywhere and get his shot off against other guards, even if his release isn‘t super high. Unlike many players his age he already possesses a decent midrange game and can also stop on a dime for a 15 feet jumper with ease. His pullup off the dribble is very smooth.
His athleticism and quickness make him a terror driving to the basket. His handle is very strong yet at times he gets a bit wild with it and has to continue to work on consistency here. He covers a lot of ground and is by his defender in the blink of an eye. Once in the lane his natural instincts and his leaping ability take over. He can easily avoid defenders and by being able to explode off the ground in any direction he usually finds a clear lane to the basket. Despite his narrow frame he does a solid job of absorbing contact.
It will be interesting to see how quickly he grasps the Spartans‘ offense and if he will take the next step of becoming a more vocal leader. He has said that this is his goal, but it will be a walk on a fine line between channeling his scoring ability (and his own character), setting up his teammates and running the offense overall.
A lot of it is projection as Farmington not only ran quite a bit of full court press, but also didn‘t have many big men on the roster. So Akins often had to guard some taller players and usually didn‘t go one on one for long stretches with the opposing playmaker. Whenever he did though, in high school, camps or EYBL, scouts have raved about his defensive potential and it is easy to see why. He moves his feet very well, can cover plenty of ground in a short amount of time and his long arms make him a terror in the passing lanes. He has a certain serious attitude about him, a certain gear he can go to, where he really takes his game to another level and while most often it is noticeable in him taking over offensively, defensively he has had a lot of great stretches as well.
He is a strong rebounder numbers wise but against more athletic college opponents he has to work on his fundamentals. Right now in high school he can basically jump above anyone else and get plenty of boards just by relying on his athleticism. That doesn‘t change the fact that he has amazing potential here as well.
Mentally Akins‘ defense overall leaves quite a bit desired. He is prone to mental mistakes, getting caught out of position and not always squares up or commits fully to a defensive position. He can be considered quite a gambler at times, something that will not fly in East Lansing. How much of it was the nature of the full court press or how much of it was Akins remains to be seen.
You can‘t help but get excited for Akins‘ future in green and white as he is a truly exciting prospect with some features you will be hard pressed to find in other comparable players. His athleticism and his size are elite yet he has a lot to learn mentally. He has to put on some weight and it will be interesting how he deals with it. Nonetheless, he is a great get for MSU and especially on a team that might also feature natural playmakers like Emoni Bates or Pierre Brooks (guys who Izzo can run offense through). If Akins works hard on his flaws and develops mentally, then there is no reason why he shouldn‘t soon be a headliner for the Spartans himself.