Happy Saturday Spartans. I will be back stateside in a few more days but the news doesn’t stop just because I am away. So let’s get to the news from this past week.
In a bit of a surprise move, AJ Hoggard has declared himself for the NBA draft, making him the second early “departure” from MSU this cycle. That said, if you read the words in AJ’s announcement, it feels very likely that he too, along with Jaden Akins, will be back for one more run. His post finished with the line “...And will maintain my college eligibility.” I have to imagine this is AJ’s way of saying, “Relax Spartan fans, I’ll be back.” As is becoming the norm, AJ is taking advantage of the new rules to get in front of NBA scouts and executives to receive feedback on how his game currently stacks up relative to other prospective draft entrants. He will get to hear his strengths and weaknesses from people outside the MSU program, and he will know where he needs to improve in order to be a legitimate draft candidate a year from now.
All that said, maybe Hoggard hears a more optimistic take on his current level and he ends up getting picked by an NBA team. Let’s take a look at next year’s Spartans team under a couple of possible scenarios.
Scenario A: AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins go pro
Starters: Tyson Walker, Tre Holloman, Malik Hall, Xavier Booker, Carson Cooper
Reserves: Jeremy Fears, Coen Carr, Gehrig Normand, Jaxon Kohler, Mady Sissoko
Still a deep team, but seven of the ten in this rotation are underclassmen. Two of the three best returning players are gone, leaving Walker as the only known entity. I say that not knowing exactly what version of Hall we end up with and not knowing what leaps if any that Sissoko, Cooper, and Kohler will make. I’d say ceiling on this version would be another Sweet-16 run.
Scenario B: AJ Hoggard goes pro, Jaden Akins returns
Starters: Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins, Malik Hall, Xavier Booker, Carson Cooper
Reserves: Fears, Holloman, Carr, Normand, Kohler, Sissoko
Akins slides into the 2-spot, meaning we don’t really have that true 2-PG lineup, but there are 2 PGs coming off the bench and we will get plenty of it as Izzo shuffles the lineups throughout the game. As a consolation, the wing is strengthened with Akins and Hall playing alongside one another. If Akins comes back and takes another leap like we saw him take last year, I’d say that gets us closer to the final weekend, but more likely a ceiling of the Elite-8.
MSU’s star wide receiver of the past two seasons, and Payton Thorne’s high school teammate, was drafted in the 2nd round at 50th overall last night by the Green Bay Packers. I will say on a personal note, as a Detroit Lions fan, I am not crazy about this landing spot for him. It’s hard for me to cheer for players on teams I don’t like. I guess I will have to settle for wanting him to be the leading receiver on a team that is only competing for high draft picks next season. Looking at GB’s roster, the other WRs are Christian Watson, Romeo Dobbs, Samori Toure, Bo Melton, and Jeff Cotton. It feels like a possibility that Jayden could be at worst WR3 amongst that depth chart, meaning he would see the field plenty in 3- and 4- WR sets, and even be in for the occasional 2-WR set. All the best in the pros, Jayden. (But I hope you get traded.)
After having an 80-year streak of having at least 1 MSU player picked in the NFL draft snapped in 2021, a new streak is now officially underway at 2 consecutive years.
We all know Izzo is already hard at work on his ‘24 recruiting class. And it turns out he is already making the rounds for ‘25 as well. Here is a Twitter post from Jordan Scott, a northern Virginia sophomore getting a visit from our Coach:
My inside source tells me that Scott’s mother played for Maryland, though they have not been recruiting him actively, and he describes him as “a really great kid”.
As far as the 2024 class is concerned, one of our top remaining targets, and program legacy, Jase Richardson is continuing to gain offers, with Cincinatti extending him an invitation in recent days. Hopefully the current direction of MSU, as well as the fact his father played for Izzo, will be enough to entice the younger Richardson to join the Green & White. No word yet on when Jase will declare.
-This just in: MSU just got a CB out of the portal, as former Cincinatti player Armorion Smith, a Detroit native, has announced he is taking his talents to EL. Armorion was a 3-star recruit in the 2021 class and redshirted one year in Cincinatti before playing last year. He recorded 20 tackles, 1 INT, and 1 PBU.
-On the hardwood, Texas picked up former Oral Roberts star Max Abmas, a top ten portal target.
-Speaking of Texas, their former 5-star guard, Arterio Morris, is heading to Kansas after one sparingly-used season in Austin.