We’re still months away from the much-anticipated start of the 2023-24 Michigan State basketball season, but let’s break down the roster.
There’s been a lot of hype for the upcoming Michigan State basketball season. With an outstanding incoming recruiting class, the return of proven veterans, a Hall of Fame coach in Tom Izzo, and a weak Big Ten, fans are practically salivating.
We’ve got some time until we get there, though. So for today, let’s preview. I’ll take a look at the position groups that Michigan State is working with this year — and I think it’s a special team.
Let’s get into it.
- PG: A.J. Hoggard, Senior
In the past, some Spartan teams have lacked an ‘alpha dog’ — a guy who’s the undisputed leader of the group. That has been the case for the last few years, but I doubt it’s the case for any longer.
Throughout the course of the 2022-23 season and the NCAA tournament, A.J. Hoggard really grew as a player. He expanded his skillset in all facets, and by the end of the year, when the team needed to make something happen, fans already knew the ball was going to him.
Hoggard is already a plus defender, a great distributor, and skilled in attacking the hoop. The main criticism I could make of him is his lack of a consistent jumper. We saw flashes of a nice stroke during the 2022 season, but it was never a sure thing. If Hoggard can take the last main step and get himself a consistent jumper, we’re talking All-American potential here.
- PG/SG: Tyson Walker, Senior
The undisputed best shooter and most clutch player on the roster. Tyson Walker is a beautiful fit next to Hoggard. Because while the former Northeastern transfer can run the offense, the presence of Hoggard as a facilitator and playmaker allows Walker steps into more of a shooting and shot-creating role, and it works perfectly for both guys. If he had to step into playing the point guard role more often, though, I’d still be plenty confident in the team.
In 2022-23, Walker averaged 15 points, 2.5 boards, and 3 assists. Look for him to potentially increase those numbers a bit in 2023-24. I don’t know if I necessarily see a huge jump in numbers because the backcourt is still crowded and there’s not going to be one superstar, but I’d expect him to continue splashing threes at an efficient rate and hitting jumpers. He’s found his place with the team, and it’s awesome.
- SG/SF: Jaden Akins, Junior
Jaden Akins flashed his skills and athleticism in year one, but it wasn’t until last season that we got to see his explosiveness and his three-point shooting stroke emerge.
After testing the NBA draft waters, Akins is back, and I expect him to play a massive role. He can be a guard as called for, but given how full the backcourt is, I project him as the team’s starting wing — he can guard anywhere between the one and three. Look for him to advance his jumper even further while continuing to show off his rare athleticism with blocks and dunks.
I fully expect him to play a massive role on a national title-competing team — we saw the potential in year one, and he’s making good use of it.
- PG: Jeremy Fears Jr., Freshman
I think Jeremy Fears is going to be a fan favorite in the green and white. The borderline five-star recruit averaged 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in his last high school season, and he looks to continue producing with Michigan State basketball. Fears probably won’t start right away due to the presence of Hoggard and Walker, but he’ll probably headline the bench unit and step into the starting point guard role within a year or so.
This kid has all the potential to be the next great Spartan point guard, and that’s not an exaggeration. Once he gets his feet under him, he’s going to be a lot of fun.
- PG: Tre Holloman, Sophomore
Tre Holloman came in last year and didn’t play extended minutes this past season. Despite Holloman’s limited sample size, fans saw a lot they liked from the former four-star recruit. Despite some offensive struggles, he was consistently an excellent defender, and that’s something Tom Izzo’s got to love.
With such a crowded backcourt — Hoggard, Walker, and Fears likely above him — I don’t know if I see Holloman playing a huge role this year. He can be some great bench depth, though, and if he makes progress offensively, he’s going to be another great piece to the puzzle.
- SF/PF: Malik Hall, Senior
I could definitely see Malik Hall being the X-factor for the season. He’s got a versatile skillset with a nice frame and theoretically has the ability to play a lot of roles on both defense and offense.
The last couple of years have been up and down for him, though. Sometimes, he looks like the best player on the court, but other times he just looks lost out there. If Hall can finally find some consistency, Michigan State could be unstoppable. His potential skillet and abilities could do big things for this team, but he’s got to stay healthy, settle down, and stay steady.
Hall may not be starting constantly, considering Akins’ presence potentially at the three in a three-guard lineup and five-star Xavier Booker at the four. If Booker isn’t quite ready, though, I could see absolutely Hall getting some starting nods because of his aforementioned abilities and veteran experience.
- PF: Xavier Booker, Freshman
The big fish, ladies and gentlemen. A highly-regarded five-star recruit out of Indianapolis, Xavier Booker headlines the incoming Michigan State basketball freshman class and looks to bring a lot to the team.
To temper expectations, though, he’s somewhat raw offensively, although should be solid out of the gate on defense. Booker shines in transition, though (kind of like a certain Antetokounmpo), and that could help earn him some early minutes.
Despite his undeniable talent and massive upside, the jump from high school to college is always tricky, so don’t be terribly surprised if Booker isn’t taking over games right out of the gate. It’s also not out of the question he could take an extra year to polish his game if he struggles in 2023-24. This year, watch for him to polish his skillset as the year goes on. I’m not sure if he’s going to start early on (I could see Hall getting the initial nod over him due to the veteran experience), but he’ll definitely get plenty of minutes.
I’m not totally sure what to expect from Booker over the course of his freshman season, but I’m definitely excited to watch. The talent is undeniable.
- PF/C: Jaxon Kohler, Sophomore
Jaxon Kohler is another guy I’m really excited to watch this year. Noticing a theme yet? He was a four-star prospect in the previous recruiting cycle, and he’s been up and down. The 6-foot-9 power forward from Utah has also been listed as a center, and I’d have to imagine he’ll play a little of both.
Kohler wasn’t terribly good defensively in 2022, but he showed a lot to like on offense, including some nice footwork in the post. Assuming he’s made some progress on his already-solid shot over the summer, look for him to display a nice offensive skillset this year.
I doubt he starts, but he’s a solid young depth at forward, and I’m excited to watch him take on bigger roles in the future.
- SF/PF: Coen Carr, Freshman
You’ve already seen the jaw-dropping highlight-reel plays. Coen Carr is a Jason Richardson-esque dunking machine. There’s plenty of talent ahead of him at both forward spots, but I can see Carr earning himself some solid playing time in year one simply due to his ridiculous athleticism. I’ve watched plenty of professional and collegiate sports, and Carr could legitimately be the single most athletic player I’ve seen yet. He just makes some crazy plays, and I’m itching to watch him already.
- SF: Gehrig Normand, Freshman
The lowest-ranked recruit from MSU’s incoming 2023 class, although that’s not saying a lot. I don’t see Gehrig Normand playing many minutes this upcoming season due to the traffic ahead of him on the depth chart and his status as a freshman, but in the upcoming years, his prowess as a shooter could be very helpful for the Spartans.
- C: Mady Sissoko, Senior
It’s the general consensus that the potential weak link on the Michigan State basketball roster is at center, and I’d probably agree with that. Despite a noticeable step being taken from 2021-2022 to 2022-23, Mady Sissoko is still pretty raw and unrefined as a player. That was always his problem. He’s got the height, the frame, and the athleticism.
Given another year under the coaching staff, the fact that he’s surrounded by talent (which can only help), and his preexisting potential, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him take another nice step, though. He just needs to continue refining his game and realizing the potential that he has.
Sissoko has made significant progress already, but if he takes another good step this offseason, Michigan State should be title favorites.
- C: Carson Cooper, Sophomore
Carson Cooper wasn’t a heralded recruit, and he didn’t make a ton of noise last year. He did show some very nice flashes during his sparse playing time, though. He’s got the potential to be Izzo’s next diamond-in-the-rough find, and given more opportunity in the years to come, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step up.
Strictly talking 2023-24, though, if some typical, fixable issues are resolved and Cooper continues to grow on the offensive end, he could be a very nice backup center. I doubt he starts over Mady Sissoko at any point, but he’s going to be a nice backup option. Make some nice plays on defense, get a couple of buckets and a handful of boards. He just strikes me as a very solid four-year player. Definitely keep an eye on him.
Depth chart, conclusions
So where does that leave Michigan State basketball? I’m going to try to project the depth chart here (keyword: depth; MSU has a lot of it), and maybe you’ll see why I’m so excited about this upcoming year.
PG: AJ Hoggard:
SG: Tyson Walker
SF: Jaden Akins
PF: Malik Hall
C: Mady Sissoko
PG: Jeremy Fears Jr.
SG: Tre Holloman
SF: Coen Carr
PF: Xavier Booker
C: Carson Cooper
Extra rotation guys:
PF/C: Jaxon Kohler (will play plenty of minutes, but couldn’t fit him into the on-paper lineup)
SF: Gehrig Normand
We already know that the starters are good, but it’s kind of crazy just how good this bench unit could be, too. The starting five can go blow-for-blow against any team in the nation, but it’s when the backups come in that the Spartans might really have some fun. Even if the starting fives are fairly evenly matched, MSU’s bench unit will probably be vastly superior to a lot of teams it encounters, and that will win Michigan State a lot of games.
Overall, this is an incredibly strong group.
The program has had an iffy couple of years (by their standards), but the stars are finally aligning for Michigan State to make a big run at the national championship.
In previous years, there have been some fun teams, but fans have known that the group had limits. This year, though, I don’t really see any barriers. Barring unforeseen circumstances, this team could be an absolute monster, with no real weaknesses or limitations. The Spartans are looking probable to absolutely bulldoze through most of the Big Ten. This group is about as solid as it gets.
Is it time for Izzo’s second?
Michigan State Basketball listed once again on ESPN Top 25 list for the wrong reason
Retaining Courtney Hawkins is key to keeping 4-star WR Nick Marsh
Urban Meyer reportedly has “no interest” in Michigan State job
Freep disrespects Michigan State football, new CB transfer
Michigan State football players react to Amber Rinestine’s departure
Mel Tucker releases his first public statement since his suspension
FOOTBALL2 days ago
Michigan State football: Hiring Urban Meyer isn’t a slam dunk on the field
FOOTBALL1 day ago
Washington State HC Jake Dickert speaks about Michigan State football job
FOOTBALL2 days ago
Michigan State football: How realistic is all the Urban Meyer talk?
FOOTBALL5 days ago
Some Michigan State football players reportedly having NIL deals canceled
BASKETBALL1 day ago
Carson Cooper calls Andy Katz out for AJ Hoggard disrespect
FOOTBALL4 days ago
College GameDay talks about open Michigan State football job with Mike Elko present
FOOTBALL2 days ago
Michigan State football: Alan Haller provides updates to fans
FOOTBALL3 days ago
Michigan State football: 3 takeaways from disappointing loss at Iowa