With the 2020-2021 Michigan State men’s basketball season over, we will take individual looks at how each Spartan performed over the course of the year.
In our final edition of the series, we check out what A.J. Hoggard brought to the table during his freshman year, and if he can be major rotation piece going forward.
Averages per game: 13.2 minutes, 2.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.2 blocks, 30.7% fields goal percentage, 16.7% three-point percentage, 60.0% free throw percentage
A.J. Hoggard earned himself surprising minutes almost from the get-go after missing about two weeks with a minor meniscus surgery right before the start of the season. Despite some truly awful shooting numbers, it was easy to see why the coaches wanted Hoggard out on the court. The Pennsylvania native is a physical lead guard with tight handles, a good feel for the position and a natural ability getting to the hole. No matter if it was in isolation or off the pick and roll, Hoggard found ways to maneuver himself into the paint. That way he put constant pressure on the defense and got all the way to the hoop on numerous occasions. When inside, he regularly finished through serious contact, showing off his strength and determination. Hoggard also proved that he is a good, natural passer with an advanced court vision.
Hoggard’s assist to turnover ratio of almost two-to-one was pretty impressive for a freshman who really wasn’t supposed to get as many minutes as he played. Aside from those numbers the team seemed to run more fluid and better whenever Hoggard was in the game, especially in transition. On defense, Hoggard flashed potential, using his strength and his short area quickness to bother opponents.
Hoggard made numerous freshman mistakes, which certainly isn‘t anything to worry about in the long run. His shooting numbers, though, were just abysmal as he barely shot over 30 percent from the field and way below 20 percent from the three-point line. It seemed as if he oftentimes wasn’t sure if he should interpret his point guard role as a scorer or a passer, thus never truly finding a real balance between the two. Hoggard too often got caught in unfavorable situations, especially when driving into the lane. While he has the ability to keep his dribble alive in any situation, his mind made him panic quite a bit when caught inside the paint. Except for a few makes here and there, his outside shot was almost nonexistent, and he needs serious improvement in that area over the summer. It would also open up the rest of the court and enable him to use his tremendous driving ability even more if were able to shoot more efficiently from behind the arc.
Many of Hoggard’s mental lapses have to be attributed to his youth, especially considering how he was thrown into a tough situation. Being asked to lead a struggling team as a freshman point guard is not easy. It becomes harder, though, if you also struggle with your shot, decision-making and the finer nuances of play-making. Hoggard looked a little heavy throughout the year, and he would probably profit from shedding some bad weight over the offseason as well.
Despite his poor shooting numbers, Hoggard showed some things that should make everyone optimistic for his future. His natural ability to penetrate is of tremendous value in college basketball and his passing instincts are legit. The issue now is that Hoggard might struggle to find minutes next to transfer Tyson Walker and true freshman Jaden Akins. This could seriously hurt his development. But nobody should be surprised if he continues to push for minutes and also earns them with his physical play down the road.
OVERALL SEASON GRADE