NBA Draft

MSU’s Jaden Akins declares for NBA Draft, maintains eligibility

East Lansing — Michigan State guard Jaden Akins has entered his name in the NBA Draft, but the door is open for his return to the Spartans for his junior season.

The Farmington native, who came on strong in the second half of his sophomore season, announced in a social media post on Friday he has declared for the draft but will maintain his eligibility, writing, “My goals also extend beyond Michigan State. It has always been a dream of mine to compete at the highest level.”

Akins will have until May 31 to decide whether to remain in the draft or return to Michigan State.

While there’s a possibility Akins could get enough positive feedback to remain in the June 22 draft, there’s a better than average chance he’ll be back at Michigan State next season as a key member of a roster that will have high expectations.

“Over my two years at Michigan State it has been an incredible journey,” Akins wrote in his social media post. “I’ve grown both on and off the court. I’ve developed my skills, while also learning how to overcome adversity. Wearing the Green and White has been a dream come true. There is still so much more I would love to accomplish. Next season could be special for Spartan Basketball and that motivates me to get better each and every day.”

Akins was hampered early in the season after undergoing surgery in September to repair a stress reaction in his foot, an injury that forced him to miss four games in late November. However, Akins came alive in the second half of the season, scoring in double figures in six of the final seven games, including 16 in the overtime loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder started 25 of 30 games and averaged 9.8 points and four rebounds a game while shooting 42.2% from 3-point range.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise, at least not to coach Tom Izzo, who talked a little more than a week ago about the prospect of current players entering the NBA Draft, including Akins and guards Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard. On Friday, Izzo offered his support for Akins.

“Jaden Akins has grown immensely in two short years, and has worked hard to put himself in this position,” Izzo said in a statement. “It’s no secret that he has dreams of playing in the NBA, and so in our discussions after the end of the season, we’ve discussed him entering his name in the draft. I’ve been gathering information for him already, and we will continue to support him however possible.

“If after the process, he’s in a position to be drafted in a spot that’s best for him, we will celebrate his accomplishment. And if he decides that returning is best for his long-term career, we will immediately get to work for next season. We will take the information he gathers and use it to his advantage as he continues to develop. I’ve been incredibly pleased by what Jaden has done already, but I’ve got much larger goals for him. And I know there’s much more he’d like to accomplish as well.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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