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Slimmed-down A.J. Hoggard ready for bigger role as a sophomore for Michigan State

Slimmed-down A.J. Hoggard ready for bigger role as a sophomore for Michigan State

A.J. Hoggard wasnt on campus long before he realized a change was in order.

Hoggard, who weighed over 220 pounds as a point guard last summer, realized soon into his workouts that hed need to lose some weight and be more lean to be the college player aspiring to become.

When I came in and things werent going the way I thought they were going to go from the beginning, just playing-wise, being a little sluggish, oh, Hoggard said.

Hoggards safety wasnt the only problem prior to last season, though. Michigan States full-team workouts were restricted by COVID-19 rules, and for a fresh point guard trying to learn the Spartans offense, that loss was particularly significant.

He then tore a meniscus and had surgery on Halloween, less than ten days before the start of the season. He spent several weeks in practice due to a knee injury.

All of that was not ideal preparation for when he was given a starting role less than ten days after returning from the injury.

Hoggard was in and out of the lineup and struggled to shoot the ball, resulting in an up-and-down freshman season.

Hoggard has moved from that shaky offseason to one described by Tom Izzo as as good as any Michigan State player.

Izzo said last week at Big Ten media days, "Im excited." A.J. Hoggard has really improved, lost some weight. I think that will be a significant positive for us.

That offseason started with weight loss. Hoggard said he lost 20 pounds through a better diet and some increased cardio. He could tell the difference instantly on the court.

I feel a lot better, Hoggard said. I can go longer, I feel a lot stronger, and I think I am quicker when Im pushing outlets. So, I think it helps.

After a year in the program, hes also gained 'a better understanding of the offense' and said . He's been more vocal on the court during workouts.

All of that puts him in the perfect position to be the Spartans starting point guard less than a month before the Nov. 9 game against Kansas.

The player competing with Hoggard for the starting point guard job is a familiar one. Tyson Walker from Northeastern was signed by Michigan State shortly after last season via the transfer portal. Hoggard, a Pennsylvania native, said hes known Walker, who is from New York, since the pair were in fourth grade via East Coast basketball circles.

Hoggard said he reached out to Walker once a student was in the portal and helped sell him on Michigan State. As they work to make each other better, the two can now draw on their long association.

Hoggard said that the goal is to keep each other accountable and not be like someone is trying to tear you down. He can tell you something that I may not want to hear, he can show me something I might not desire to see. Its going to take a long time.

Izzo, for one, isnt placing too much emphasis on the starting job. After a season in which the Spartans struggled to find if he had 'any point guard option', HE said : Walker as more of hoopster and better shooter, Hoggard as the stronger one and more rebounder.

He stated that both will see plenty of minutes and may even play together at times.

The beauty about basketball is that you can play two and three different players, Izzo said. Its a little harder to play your quarterback that way in football, he added.

Its going to be a good combination, he added.

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