The offseason is just two weeks old, and Michigan State basketball has already undergone some changes. On April Fools day, Max Christie announced he will test the waters of the NBA Draft. Unfortunately for Spartans fans, it wasn’t a joke. On the bright side though, he is leaving his college eligibility intact by not hiring an agent, and it should be a safe bet that is the route he will end up taking.
Monday afternoon the coaching staff lost one of its longest tenured members. Assistant head coach and member of the MSU staff for the last 19 seasons, Dwayne Stephens was hired as the next head coach of Western Michigan basketball. Stephens will be the third coach in as many years for a struggling WMU program, but is more than deserving of having his own ship to captain.
The changes that many are anticipating for this team are involving the transfer portal. This Spring it seems as though more players are deciding to enter their name in the portal than the NBA Draft. For a summer that many expect to drastically change the roster of Michigan State, they will have plenty of talented names to choose from. The question is who fits the culture of this program, and who can withstand the gruesomeness of the Big Ten? Tom Izzo probably knows that answer better than we do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate who might be wearing green and white next fall.
While the Spartans are hoping to use the transfer portal to improve their roster, other schools are wishing it didn’t exist. LSU basketball currently has zero scholarship athletes after eleven players entered their name in the portal last week. That leaves a lot of options to choose from for teams currently doing some shopping, including MSU.
It’s no secret that the first priority for Michigan State is to find themselves a big man to dominate down low. Efton Reid fits that description perfectly. Starting all 34 games for LSU as a freshman, the former five star high school recruit is looking for a new home. Standing just a touch below 7 feet tall and weighing in at 240 pounds, Reid already possesses the frame necessary to ruffle some feathers with the elite forwards of the Big Ten.
Efton Reid is similar to an NBA prospect just drafted from a foreign country. In his first season playing at a higher level of competition, he wasn’t able to put all the pieces together. But he was highly ranked out of high school for a reason, and if a team decides to fight through his growing pains, they may be handsomely rewarded in the end.
True post players may be dying off in the NBA, but for now, they are coveted in college basketball. The footwork and post presence of Reid is his greatest strength. His highlights on YouTube may remind Spartan fans of Nick Ward. Thanks to his large stature, Reid can maneuver through any defender to get an open look at the basket, and his 51% shooting from the field is a welcome sight.
However, if Efton Reid were to choose East Lansing, he figures to be somewhat of a project. His averages of 6.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG are not staggering by any means and he often found himself in foul trouble while at LSU. But, MSU has seen many freshman to sophomore year evolutions, one of them most recently in AJ Hoggard. If Tom Izzo and company see potential in Reed to be a bruiser, they should give him a look. He already has the size and the moves. If taught how to use it to his advantage by playing physical defense and forcing fouls on the opposition, Reid could be a long term fix at the center position for the Spartans.
The next MSU big man may not come from a power 5 conference. The portal contains a lot of talent this offseason, even from schools like the Virginia Military Institute of the Southern Conference. That is where graduate transfer Jake Stephens has made a living over the last four seasons, and he is ready for one last ride with a higher caliber club.
Stephens will be highly sought after this summer, and if Michigan State can find a way to lure him in, it would be considered a home run. Everything about the kid is what you want in your schools primary big man. His 6 feet, 10 inch, 266 pound frame, makes him a capable paint presence on both sides of the floor. Stephens 19.6 points, and 9.0 rebounds per game on 55% shooting from the field during his senior season at VMI show he can be a consistent contributor. His final campaign as a Keydet also saw him shoot a whopping 49% from long range and chip in 3.3 assists per contest.
Put on the tape of Jake Stephens and you may see flashes of recent Big Ten Player of the Year, Luka Garza. The West Virginia native isn’t the most athletic forward that will wow you with the way he runs the floor. But his patience in the post makes him look like he is already an NBA veteran. Free throw shooting and foul trouble are no issue either as he shot a solid 80% from the line and only fouled out 5 times in his 120 game career.
Stephens game is similar to that of incoming Michigan State freshman Jaxon Kohler. Floor spacing, offensive and defensive rebounding, shot creating, and posing as a threat in the pick and roll is in both their arsenals. Another added plus of bringing in the VMI transfer could be his role as a leader and mentor.
If the Spartans are serious about adding a starting center they need to give Jake Stephens a call. He would slot into the starting lineup first day of practice and be capable of playing big minutes (33.2 MPG his senior year at VMI). Stephens is eager to end his playing career by helping a team win in a competitive conference. Michigan State just so happens to fit that description.
Terrence Shannon Jr.
Much focus is put on the dire need for Michigan State to add a starter at the 5 spot. However, this team could use help in other roles as well. Gabe Brown was a staple at the small forward position this past season, and although his production wasn’t as potent as many would have liked, he leaves a big hole in the lineup by declaring for the NBA Draft.
Enter Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech. Entering his senior year, Shannon Jr. identifies as a guard, but has the build necessary to play bigger. Small forwards are a plenty in the transfer portal, but what makes the Chicago native stand out is his potential. Shannon Jr. has already entered his name in the NBA Draft before, so the fact that he is looking for a new team in his final year of eligibility instead of bolting for the next level, is a sign that he is determined to make himself better.
Terrence Shannon Jr. averaged 10.4 points, 2.6 RPG, and 2.0 APG this past season with Texas Tech. The way he attacks the basket while still being able to shoot the long ball would do wonders for a Michigan State team that struggled with scoring droughts in 2022.
The 2019-20 Big 12 All Freshman honoree is bouncy and loves to jam the basketball. Gabe Brown and even Miles Bridges are Michigan State small forwards that loved to finish lob passes and Shannon Jr. could be next. Shooting a modest 35% from three as a Red Raider, he still is more of a rim running slasher. He has a decent handle that allows him to get down hill quickly and draw contact. Being a member of Texas Tech for the last three seasons also means he knows how to play hard-nose defense.
Since 2022 would be Shannon Jr.’s last showcase before the NBA, he may not want to endure the grind of the Big Ten. But an athletic wing with size that can create for himself and his teammates is exactly what MSU needs. Shannon Jr. won’t stuff the stat sheet but his versatility and efficiency will make one school very happy this summer.