Michigan State basketball's Julius Marble enters transfer portal

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State entered the offseason needing to fill a hole in the middle of the frontcourt with the graduation of Marcus Bingham Jr.

On Tuesday, that hole grew even bigger, as Julius Marble entered the transfer portal after three seasons with the Spartans, a team spokesman confirmed.

Michigan State forward Julius Marble II (34) is entering the transfer portal.

"Spartan Nation thank you for an amazing 3 years," Marble wrote on his Instagram account that included a video of his highlights at Michigan State. "I wanna thank Coach Izzo as well as the coaching staff for everything they’ve done for me. I would also like to thank my teammates for always being there for me, love y’all boys! With all of that being said I gotta find the best situation for me and my family so I’ve decided to enter my name into the transfer portal."

The move qualifies as a surprise, and while Marble’s entry into the portal doesn’t rule out a possible return for his senior season, it seems likely the Dallas native is ready to move on, perhaps in an effort to play closer to home.

Marble’s departure, along with the loss of Bingham, means Mady Sissoko is the only returning big man, though he has averaged only 4.9 minutes per game, appearing in 55 games over his first two seasons. The Spartans will welcome 6-foot-10 freshman Jaxon Kohler next season, a four-star recruit from Utah.

Over three seasons, Marble averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.2 minutes a game. However, he took a big jump as a junior last season, playing 14.4 minutes a game, averaging 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds and shooting 59.2% from the field.

Where Michigan State coach Tom Izzo turns at this point seems clear — making a move in the transfer portal. It already seemed as though that was a direction the Spartans would head, even with Marble back, but to this point, they haven’t been linked with any of the notable big men in the portal.

They have inquired about West Virginia wing Jalen Bridges, but at 6-7, he wouldn’t fill the void created in the middle of the frontcourt.

Without any other additions, the Spartans would be relying on a remarkably inexperienced center position made up of Sissoko and Kohler. The possible return of senior Joey Hauser would offer another option, but the 6-9 Hauser played center only in spurts last season and the Spartans often struggled defensively with that smaller lineup, especially in a Big Ten full of talented big men.

In addition to the departure of Bingham and the likely loss of Marble, guard Gabe Brown has entered the NBA Draft and has hired an agent, meaning he will not be back for another season. And freshman guard Max Christie has entered the draft, though he has not hired an agent. There has been no word which way Christie is leaning, but his return would be critical to Michigan State's roster makeup heading into next season. A decision, however, likely isn't coming soon.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattchaboneau