Michigan State basketball: The Xavier Booker saga continues

Michigan State's Xavier Booker makes a 3-pointer against Michigan during the first half on Tuesday,
Michigan State's Xavier Booker makes a 3-pointer against Michigan during the first half on Tuesday, / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

Every couple of years, there feels like there's a controversial playing time saga involving a talented Michigan State basketball player. This time around, it's five-star freshman Xavier Booker.

Booker is averaging 3.7 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.7 minutes per game. Michigan State is 16-9 on the year and Booker has played in just 17 of those games. It's hard to believe that one of the best recruits in the 2023 class is only playing in about 70 percent of the Spartans' games and when he does play, he makes plus plays and then comes out right after, never to see the floor again.

A perfect example of this happened on Wednesday night in Michigan State's win over Penn State. Booker came in and hit a three and then scored on a beautiful post touch in just five minutes but he never saw the floor again after that. It was confusing.

But this is how it's been all season for the freshman.

Tom Izzo has said multiple times that there's plenty that Booker needs to work on and he's not wrong. He's not strong enough defensively nor is he quick enough nor does he have enough muscle to compete with the post bigs in the Big Ten. But he is an offensive threat who can stretch the floor and that's what the Spartans have been lacking all year.

Sure, Carson Cooper is playing better and Jaxon Kohler is getting back into game shape, but Booker just elevates this team to a Final Four-caliber level when he's on the floor.

When Booker is out there, opposing centers have to respect his shooting from deep so that clears up the paint for one of the three aggressive starting guards to drive. Heck, it could even help Malik Hall post up in a one-on-one situation which is winnable for him about 99 percent of the time.

Yet here we are 25 games into the season and Booker is still playing limited minutes and being taken out right after he does something well.

Something has to change.