Did Tom Izzo hint at a Jaden Akins return?

Michigan State v Mississippi State
Michigan State v Mississippi State / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

So much is unknown about the Michigan State basketball team next season. Maybe that's just how it is now in the transfer portal era of college basketball, but this offseason feels much different than previous years. One piece of this puzzle was answered on Thursday when Mady Sissoko announced that he will be entering the transfer portal, but there are still so many players on MSU's team that could decide to leave.

One of those players is Jaden Akins. He really hasn't been someone that many thought would leave Michigan State, but there is always the chance that he does. Just last offseason he flirted with the NBA, so even that is an option for him again. But as I mentioned, in today's day and age you can never be 100 percent confident what anyone is going to do.

Tom Izzo was the guest on 'The Drive with Jack' podcast earlier this week and discussed a wide range of topics related to his team.

However, the most interesting thing he shared was that Akins likely will be returning next season.

Izzo was asked how he is going to replace Tyson Walker and if he will have to use the portal to do so. Izzo responded "Believe it or not, no. I think Jaden Akins will be able to do that."

Let's unpack that statement, shall we?

The first thing that stands out is Izzo implying that Akins will be back next season. If he believes Akins can replace Walker next year, then that obviously means he isn't worried about the junior wing leaving East Lansing. This is a huge sigh of relief because Akins will have the most experience on this team next season, unless AJ Hoggard decides to return. That experience will be massive for not just Akins, but for the entire team as Michigan State desperately needs a leader next year.

Now let's jump to the second part of that quote. Is Akins actually good enough to replace Walker? To be honest, I'm not so sure. I think it's a fair assumption that Jaden likely will have his best statistical season next year, but will he be as great as Walker was for MSU? Not many players in the country can do what Walker did, and we have only seen a handful of Spartans throughout the years that can do that. So I don't think it's realistic to say Akins can replace Walker completely.

However, I do think he can help replace Walker in some capacity. Jaden has the ability, like Walker, to create his own shot. That is something any team needs in late clock situations or if the offense stalls out on a possession. I also think Akins can be a streaky scorer like Tyson and can will MSU back into games from time to time. But can he do it as consistently as Walker? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Regardless of what Akins brings to Michigan State next season, I am just relieved that he will be back. Losing Akins after already losing so many starters from this year's team would be tough to overcome, so at the end of the day I am just glad we will (likely) see him wear the green and white again next year.