The MSU women’s basketball team is coming off one of their most successful seasons while under the tenure of head coach Suzy Merchant. Last season, the Spartans reached the Big Ten Tournament championship game and proved to be one of the most dominant teams in the conference. MSU could be heavy contenders next season as well, but there are some unanswered questions the team will have to face between now and the start of the season — one of those questions will hinge on Aerial Powers.
Powers, a redshirt-junior, is eligible for the WNBA draft and has already comprised herself an impressive resume in her time at MSU. She holds a laundry list of all-time records including scoring, free throws, double-doubles and the list continues beyond these accomplishments. So if Powers has accomplished so much, why would she need to finish out her final collegiate season with the Spartans next year?
Because she doesn’t have a Big Ten Title under her belt.
MSU’s run to the Big Ten Tournament championship game this season was Powers’ closest attempt during her tenure at MSU and it was the Spartans’ closest since they lost to Purdue University in the Big Ten Tournament championship game in the 2012-13 season.
Albeit Powers has racked up numerous accolades, including All-American honors from multiple committees, she has yet to win a conference title or make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and a player of her caliber is deserving of one.
If Powers returns to the Spartans, MSU could be a favorite to win the Big Ten, especially since Ameryst Alston of Ohio State University is graduating and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough of Maryland is presented with a similar situation to Powers — the only difference is she has a conference title under her belt and multiple Final Four appearances with the Terrapins.
Powers would be once again at the helm of the MSU’s offense, and she would be the heart of a potent offensive trio that also includes fellow junior guard Tori Jankoska and redshirt-sophomore guard Branndais Agee, who made a huge strides in her second season with MSU.
Out of the three, Powers led the scoring attempt last season averaging 21.8 points per game, while Jankoska averaged 15.1 points per game and Agee was third on the roster with 11.7 points per contest. On top of that, Powers has also led the team with 9.2 rebounds per game and a .444 field goal percentage.
Although Agee has made great progress this season, the 5-foot-11 guard isn’t ready to fill the roll as a No. 2 guard. Agee has the potential to be a huge scoring threat for MSU, but if she was under the mentorship of Powers for one more season, Agee would be more mature and ready to lead the Spartans in her senior season.
If Powers doesn’t return, MSU would likely turn to sophomore guard and forward Lexi Gussert. In 26 games last season, Gussert averaged .425 from the floor and .407 from behind the arc, but only averaged 2.0 points per game in 7.4 minutes a game. Gussert has had limited playing time during her two years with the Spartans and she would be a major question mark for Merchant heading into next season.
Whether Powers decides to enter the draft or not is ultimately her decision. Powers wouldn’t hurt her draft stock if she decided to come back for her senior season with the Spartans. And even though she’s racked up numerous awards and is arguably the best shooter in MSU history, she has unfinished business to tend to and next year could be the perfect opportunity.