Moneyball tipped off on Thursday night and I was in attendance. Here are some takeaways regarding Michigan State basketball.
HOLT, Mich. — Holt High School is at a standing-room-only capacity. Hundreds of fans from the Lansing area, and some from even further, pack the gym. Everyone is here craving Michigan State basketball.
Moneyball Pro-Am has gone on for 18 years and is now a summer staple for MSU hoops. All scholarship players on the roster heading into next season are playing in it, besides Malik Hall who is recovering from foot surgery.
There are three games a night, every Tuesday and Thursday in July (excluding July 4), and I’m here to give you my three takeaways from opening night.
1. Jeremy Fears is the future
Jeremy Fears is one of the highly touted incoming freshmen that formed the No. 5 overall recruiting class in the nation. He was ranked as the 31st-best player in his class (247Sports).
The freshman is at his best when running a half-court offense. He has tremendous vision, is patient in the pick and roll, and makes the best decision with the ball. He’s a true point guard.
It turns out he’s also really good in a loose and fast-paced style of game.
Fears did everything offensively on Thursday night. He finished with 37 points, six assists, and 10 rebounds. No other player scored more points the entire night. The freshman point guard scored in every way imaginable. He knocked down three-pointers, sometimes using shifty dribble moves to create the shot. He attacked the basket and finished around the rim. Fears also showed his high-flying capabilities. There were a few times when the 6-foot-2 guard seemed to float through the air on his way to a dunk.
It’s hard to say how many minutes the freshman will get this year. MSU has its fair share of guards. However, when Fears does get his chance in the green and white, expect a show.
2. Mady Sissoko has been in the weight room
The Big Ten is a big man’s conference. Maybe not so much this upcoming season as in the past, but there’s still a giant in West Lafayette.
Mady Sissoko walked onto the court at Holt High School, built like a man who knows he plays Zach Edey. The Spartans only have Purdue once on the schedule, and it’s at Mackey Arena. It’s hard to look ahead, but that could be the game that decides the winner of the Big Ten.
The senior has a tall task ahead of him but visibly added weight to his upper body. He’s a lot more filled out than the skinny freshman we saw a few years ago.
One of the most impressive plays of the night was when Sissoko caught the ball in the low post, took a few dribbles, and stuffed the ball (and his defender) into the rim. He was simply too strong and slammed the ball down with force.
The center position has been a huge question mark for the last couple of years; hopefully, Sissoko has blossomed into the answer this year.
3. Don’t sleep on Gehrig Normand
There’s a lot of buzz around the Michigan State basketball freshman class, and rightfully so. Fears is a special floor general, Xavier Booker just oozes potential, and Coen Carr is a human spaceship. One guy that gets left out a lot is Texas native Gehrig Normand.
Normand was ranked outside the top 100 in his class, according to 247Sports. He comes to East Lansing with little hype around him.
I’m here to tell you, don’t forget about him.
Normand was very impressive on Thursday night. He definitely could use the help of a college weight room, but his 6-foot-5 frame is pretty solid. He displayed a beautiful-looking jumper and knocked in a few threes, but also did a really good job attacking the rim.
The freshman threw down a windmill, which I have to admit caught me by surprise, on a fastbreak, and had another driving dunk while slashing through the middle of the lane.
I see a lot of potential in Normand, and I think the staff sees it, too. Michigan State is absolutely loaded this year, and honestly, he might have a hard time finding his way into the rotation. But if Normand sticks around a couple of years, I think he could be an All-Big Ten caliber player by his junior season.
Moneyball Pro-Am can be very misleading; not everything will translate to Big Ten play. However, I think there were a lot of exciting things to see on the court on opening night.
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