East Lansing — As Michigan State prepares for its next matchup with a ranked opponent, the Spartans paused for a moment on Wednesday to take a look at the future.
The glimpse came in the form of the start of the early signing period and the Spartans officially welcomed two members to the 2020 recruiting class — 6-foot-10 center Mady Sissoko and 6-3 guard AJ Hoggard, both four-star prospects.
Sissoko plays at Wasatch Academy in Utah and hails originally from Bafoulabe, Mali, and is rated the No. 37 player in the nation by 247sports.com as well as the seventh-best center. Hoggard is from Coatesville, Pa., and currently plays at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, the same school that former Spartan Miles Bridges played at. Hoggard is rated the No. 71 player in the country and No. 13 point guard.
“Today’s an exciting part of my job because I'm very pleased and happy with the two kids we got,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We definitely want guys that want to be here, and I think we've got two guys that definitely want to be here.
“We have two top-100 kids, one top-50 kid, and I think by the end of the year AJ will be top-50 kid because of who he’ll play and how he’ll play this year.”
The more intriguing of the two players signed is Sissoko. With a 7-4 wingspan, Sissoko has only been in the United States for three years and is still a beginner of sorts as a basketball player. But he’s developed quickly and as he did, the interest from college basketball’s top programs followed.
Sissoko averaged 12.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and one block game as a junior at Wasatch. He committed to Michigan State in September and is the type of player that fits the Michigan State program, Izzo said.
“His biggest asset is he can run the court like a deer and he rebounds everything in sight,” Izzo said. “I think he fits in well with us. He gets along with everybody.
“He’s gotta get better with offensive production, but he does have skill with the right and left hand. He believes every missed shot is his. He rebounds with a vengeance and in that respect he’ll fit in really well here. He’ll continue to work on his offensive skills, but running the court, rebounding the ball and blocking shots, I think he’s gonna be at a really high level.”
As for Hoggard, he fared well playing in Philadelphia for Archbishop Carroll before transferring to Huntington Prep last season where he averaged 17.4 points.
Listed as a point guard, Hoggard’s ability to play multiple spots is what the Spartans noticed, as well as his leadership ability.
“I just know this, the more versatile players we get that can play multiple positions is more of a benefit to us,” Izzo said. “I feel comfortable he’s a guy that can play multiple (positions). He passes it good enough, can play some point, is strong enough to play almost a 4 in this day and age. I think he can play all over the place and that will benefit us. He can guard a lot of positions, but consistency with the 3-point shot is one thing he’ll have to improve on.
“But you kind of fell in love with him just listening to him on the bench to his teammates. He’s very good leadership skills and is not afraid to use his voice.”
Michigan State has one open scholarship still after the decommitment of Flint Beecher guard Jalen Terry in late October. Terry has taken visits to LSU and Louisville since, and has yet to announce a commitment.
Izzo said the plan is to add another player, likely a guard, and that he and his staff are looking at several options. They’ll also consider a transfer or, potentially, holding on to the scholarship.
“We’ll probably sign one more and we feel like with the number of guards we’re losing we’re gonna need another guard,” Izzo said. “Yet you never know in this day and age. Maybe we’ll check the basket (transfer portal) sometime and see what’s in there and I figure we’ll go from there. But the game plan is to definitely sign one more sometime throughout the year.”