Hello TOC Nation, greetings from the sunny beaches of Tel Aviv, Israel. I am pretty sure this is the first TOC article ever written in the Middle East. Yes, I am on vacation so that is why this article is a bit late and why I have not put out anything since my Draymond Green piece. Speaking of, I was truly touched by how many of you really enjoyed that article and how none of you scorned my opinions in it.
But back to the matters at hand (and reality), we have a few things to discuss with respect to MSU. The first and foremost is Tom Izzo’s latest recruiting win. On Friday afternoon, MSU picked up the 2nd member of its 2024 class with the addition of Cleveland, Ohio, big man Jesse McCulloch. McCulloch is a four-star recruit, just like the first member of this recruiting class, Kur Teng. Along with five-star Xavier Brooks in the 2023 cycle, it appears that MSU’s recent struggles at recruiting front-court players may be behind us. So this is a big win. It is possible, even probable, that Izzo will still get one more piece to this class and MSU has been mentioned as a possible landing spot on a few other highly rated targets.
Welcome to East Lansing, Jesse.
The second piece of big news coming from MSU’s basketball program in the last couple days is Jaden Akins declaring for the draft. As many of you have already speculated in the article dedicated to this, he most likely will not stick in the draft and is simply doing some information-gathering. I think that 90/10 estimate one of you stated are some very accurate odds for Jaden’s return. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s take a shot at predicting the lineup if he does end up departing for the big leagues. I’d say it would go something like this:
Starters: AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker, Malik Hall, Xavier Brooks, Carson Cooper
Reserves: Jeremy Fears, Tre Holloman, Gehrig Normand, Coen Carr, Jaxon Kohler, Mady Sissoko.
So while this would certainly be a big loss for the program, as Akins is expected to be a massive piece of next year’s team, the return of Malik Hall does provide a bit of a security blanket for this situation. And due to the incoming class, there would still be plenty of opportunity to roll out different types of lineups, matchup dependent. All that said, here’s hoping the process is valuable for Jaden, but that he returns and balls out for MSU next season. I do think, though, that this is a pretty strong indicator that his junior season will be his last in East Lansing.
I wanted to give props to a former Spartan who had himself an absolute monster game the other night. In a playoff series where his team was down 1-0 and playing game 2 without its biggest star due to an injury, Xavier Tillman put the Memphis Grizzlies on his back and carried them to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. His final stat line for the game was 10-13 shooting, 1-2 from 3, and 1-2 on FTs for 22 points to go with 13 rebound and 3 assists. He only picked up one foul, and his plus-10 matched Memphis’ margin of victory and was the highest of any player in the game. But looking beyond the stats, Xavier’s energy in that game surpassed that of anyone else on the court that night. His hustle was crucial in getting extra possessions for his team. In the first half, when he was perfect from the field up until he missed a deep three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, he was an absolute force down low, even taking Anthony Davis to school on a pair of sweet low-post moves. In a conversation I had with a friend after the game, I called this his ‘Rod Tidwell game’. And in case you are not picking up that movie reference, I mean that after that performance, he can tell Memphis to “Show me the money.” It is worth mentioning that Xavier has a club option on his contract this offseason.
Transfer Portal Notes
Just some notes from the portal nationally:
- Ryan Nembhard has moved from Creighton to Gonzaga, a solid win for the Zags.
- Cormac Ryan goes from Notre Dame to North Carolina.
- El Ellis goes from Louisville to Arkansas
Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.