Just like last year, we want to take a look at how each Michigan State men’s basketball player performed individually during the 2021-2022 season, where that player is at this point in his MSU career and what we might be able to expect from that player in the 2022-2023 campaign. We will limit this series to only include players who are returning to East Lansing next season.
We’ll start with forward Malik Hall, who not only was voted a captain, but also showed plenty of promise at certain points during his junior year. Unfortunately a frustrating lack of consistency has prevented him from really ascending to stardom for the Spartans, so far at least.
36 games (seven starts), 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 51.5% fields goals, 42.6% three-pointers, 69.0% free throws
Hall continued his steady upward trajectory from his sophomore to his junior year, and with more minutes (17.5 as a sophomore up to 21.8 as a junior), basically improved in all major statistical areas. He almost doubled his point total and posted very strong shooting numbers from the field. Some slight concerns might be his still relatively weak free-throw shooting percentage, his increased turnover numbers (1.4 as a junior) and his still rather unspectacular rebounding rate.
Statistically, Hall had a strong season with decent development in plenty of major areas and if you always thought of him as a four-year steady developer, then you might view him as being right on track. He even was voted a captain at the beginning of the year, further proving that he means a lot not only to the program and the coaches, but also to his teammates. The problem with Hall, though, is that many of the flashes he has shown throughout the years would indicate that he could be much more than he actually was during the recent season.
There are certain games where Hall looks like a true star. He had numerous well-rounded scoring games during Big Ten play, like when he scored 18 points versus Indiana or had 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists at Minnesota to start off conference play. His best individual game actually came in the Bahamas when he exploded for 24 points against a very strong Loyola Chicago team in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. But it was the Caribbean Island, too, where he showed what has basically been an issue for him all throughout his MSU career, as he followed up his blockbuster game with only two points in a Michigan State win against UConn.
This trend of interchanging solid to very strong performances with almost absolute no shows plagued Hall all season long, and unfortunately for him, he finished the year with some of his worst games. During the NCAA Tournament, he only scored two points in two games (missing seven of eight shots to go along with four turnovers), continuing a concerning trend that started with an already lackluster performance during the Big Ten Tournament where he didn’t reach double figures in any of the Spartans’ three games. It was revealed that Hall was bothered by an ankle injury throughout the year, yet he himself said it had nothing to do with any of his struggles and he didn’t want to use it as an excuse.
To his great credit, though, Malik usually rebounded from his valleys with a vengeance and often reminded folks rather quickly of how important he is to the team. He basically won the game at Maryland by converting a driving layup with only 1.9 seconds to go which was one of the many times that Tom Izzo and his teammates looked to him in the deciding stages of a game.
State of his game
Hall is still a true “tweener” forward and he possesses all the advantages and shortcomings that this type of player brings to the table. He is strong enough to bully smaller wingmen in the post, quick enough to get by bigger defenders and skilled enough to create plenty of mismatches all over the court. Yet, he also lacks the ideal height to really be a constant factor on the glass, doesn’t have enough foot speed to chase quicker wings around the perimeter and, at times, can get overpowered by heavier, stronger four-men near the basket.
The biggest development for Hall came in his perimeter game. His drive to the basket has vastly improved in recent years, aided by a tremendous shooting percentage from long range and a tighter handle with either hand. He gets really creative on his way to the basket (making up for his lack of quickness), and once he gets a step on his defender, his strength allows him to finish at a very good rate, too. While a bit reliant on his right hand, Hall uses a variety of spin moves, pivots or drop steps to create space for himself.
The same continues in the post where he has developed a very good turnaround jumper and understands angles extremely well for a player who doesn’t live in the paint all the time. For a heavier wing, Hall can sporadically play above the rim and will surprise people from time to time with a highlight dunk going to the basket or finishing a drop off with authority. He is a decent passer even if his overall skillset and refined game would lead you to believe that he could be a lot better in that regard.
Defensively, Hall is a strong communicator and uses his strength to his advantage in the post. He understands leverage to keep opponents out of the paint, but struggles to challenge shots due to his lack of height. His mobility has improved, but he still isn’t a player that can chase quicker opponents around the perimeter all game long.
Outlook for 2022-2023
Even if Max Christie returns and the Spartans find some inside scoring punch in the transfer portal, Hall will be someone that Izzo will look to for leadership and that go-to mentality. He just is too talented not to be featured more on offense and there has been a strong correlation between his performance and the team’s in recent years. The big question, though, is how to get Hall out of his inconsistency slumps?
For starters, Michigan State will probably have to feature Hall more on the offensive end and run a bigger number of plays for him. His game at times can be a bit plodding and overly complicated, if you will, yet, as of now, there aren’t many players on the roster who have Hall’s ability to create their own shot. His post touches varied throughout the year last season and he might benefit from playing with his back to the basket a bit more. It’s unfortunate that Hall has only experienced being “the man” for short stretches as MSU might need him to fill that role sooner rather than later.
Overall, Izzo has alluded to Hall not always trusting his game enough and that might be a direct result of not having a clear cut role or position. On top of that Hall has been through quite a lot off the court, with his father suffering from dementia, something that could still be a factor today. It likely made Malik grow up quickly, introduced a serious side to him early and might still be pulling on his mental makeup from time to time.
On the court, roster makeup will be extremely important for Hall’s senior year as he needs a certain type of player next to him to be most effective, like a long, athletic center to make up for his lack of height, or a quicker, versatile four-man to give him space on offense. If Hall gains renewed confidence, if he continues to develop physically and if he finally grows into the role many envision for him, then there is no reason why he shouldn’t have a strong senior campaign. Those are quite a few “ifs,” of course.