If I had to make my own offseason wishlist for Michigan State basketball, it would have to be this. I (we) need these things to happen.
The offseason is officially upon us and now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to digest that Kansas State loss, we can look ahead to next season and the high expectations for Michigan State basketball.
How does MSU live up to the lofty expectations for next season? By having a great offseason.
That means checking off some wishlist items that I’ve set for the program. What do I think should be on the Spartans’ offseason wishlist?
1. Tyson Walker returns
This is the No. 1 wishlist item for a reason. There’s nothing more important to winning the offseason than Tyson Walker returning for another season. He was one of the best guards in the nation near the end of the season and finished averaging 14.8 points, shooting about 45 percent from the floor and 42 percent from deep. He was one of the most efficient offensive players in college hoops. A return for one final year could be the missing piece to the national title puzzle.
2. Everyone stays healthy
While Walker returning is the No. 1 priority this offseason, everyone staying healthy is right there at No. 2. Last offseason, both Malik Hall and Jaden Akins suffered foot injuries and it forced them to miss time which is critical for team development as well as confidence. Michigan State basketball can’t afford that this offseason with any key players. Everyone needs to stay healthy.
3. Malik Hall returns or MSU adds a transfer wing
People loved to hate on Hall after what happened in the NCAA Tournament as well as at the end of the season. I was even guilty of doubting Hall’s ability, but we all forgot that he had a rough year because he was never seemingly 100 percent. When Hall is 100 percent, he’s a very good player and even showed flashes of being an All-Big Ten performer. But we won’t see that unless he comes back with a full, healthy offseason. I think a return of Hall would be extremely beneficial to this team both as a potential starter and a leader.
If Hall decides to move on, I think Tom Izzo needs to go into the portal to land a transfer wing to replace those minutes that will open up. Sure, he could rely more on the young guys, but a veteran wing would go a long way.
4. Xavier Booker work on strength, defense
Xavier Booker is an intriguing prospect. He’s a five-star with a very high ceiling who is considered fairly raw heading into his freshman year. While everyone wants him to be Jaren Jackson Jr. right away, I think we’ll have to be more patient with him. What would really aid his development would be improved defense and strength which he could work on all offseason. I have no doubts that his strength and weight will improve under the strength and conditioning staff at MSU. He’s an important piece to the 2023-24 puzzle.
5. No projected starters, key role players transfer
Pierre Brooks has already made the decision to transfer out which was expected, but I had high hopes for him ahead of the 2022-23 season. As long as no one else hits the transfer portal, I’m happy. Keep this team intact and make sure no key players transfer and MSU should be in good shape.
6. AJ Hoggard adds consistent jumper
AJ Hoggard improved in just about every category this season. He was more aggressive, he was one of the best passers in the country, and he added a decent jumper. Although he worked on his jumper, he still shot just 42 percent from the floor and 33 percent from deep. But he did show that he can improve drastically — 12 percent from deep and 17 percent from the free throw line from a year prior. If he can continue that improvement ahead of his senior year, he could be a knockdown shooter and a legit threat from anywhere on the floor. That would be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
7. Mady Sissoko takes another step in his development
Whether people want to admit it or not, Mady Sissoko took a massive step this past season in his development. Through his first two seasons, he was a non-factor and then was thrown into the fire this year as the starter, averaging 21 minutes per game and playing at a decent level. He improved in every aspect of his game and is a critical piece to the puzzle next year. If he can develop a semblance of a post game and defend at a higher level, he could be just what MSU needs to make a run.
8. Jaxon Kohler gets in shape, becomes legit role player
I have high hopes for Jaxon Kohler and I think he can surprise a lot of people next season if he sheds some of that bad weight and continues to work on his already-impressive post moves. If he can get in better shape, improve that defense, and play about 15 minutes per game next season, I’ll feel very good about Michigan State’s center rotation.
Bonus: MSU adds at least two more 2024 commits
This has nothing to do with the 2023-24 season, but it would be nice to see Izzo continue his red-hot recruiting trend and land a couple more four or five-star prospects to his 2024 class. Give me Jesse McCulloch and Bryson Tucker.
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