Another year, another surprise from Tom Izzo. Remarkably, the Michigan State Spartans have already faced two of the top players in the entire nation: Drew Timme & Oscar Tshiebwe, splitting those matchups and learning something significant in the process. What is that lesson learned: Mady Sissoko has grown and is ready to lead MSU this season.
How can Mady Sissoko lead MSU this season?
The 6’9” Center from Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah was a highly touted recruit in the 2020 recruitment period. He was ranked ninth at his position and 41st overall, ranking ahead in recruiting rankings above players like Hunter Dickinson, Moses Moody, R. J. Davis, and Jordan Nesbitt. Up through his first two seasons with the Spartans, many were questioning the validity of Sissoko’s four-star rating.
Mady Sisoko’s early career struggles
These concerns were not without merit, as Sissoko was less than impressive during the time that he did see the floor for Michigan State. Earning just around five minutes a game, his freshman & sophomore season were uninspiring with 1.1 points per game, approximately one rebound, and a free throw percentage below 50%. A major issue for the Spartans last year was the utter dominance that bigs like Hunter Dickinson had when playing an admittedly weak frontcourt.
Nothing about what we had seen before from #22 would lead anyone to believe that he could handle the likes of All-American bigs Timme & Tshiebwe. And yet…
Sissoko turn around in the 2022-23 season
Through three games in the 2022-2023 season, Sissoko’s minutes have skyrocketed from his average of five in his first two seasons to 25.7 in his junior year. The involvement is not just in minutes played, as Sissoko is averaging 7.7 rebounds and 11.3 points per game, first on the team on the boards and third only behind seniors Joey Hauser & Malik Hall in points per game.
The numbers themselves don’t even do Sissoko the justice he deserves, considering the talent he has had to overcome to start the season. Spartan fans, of which there are many who wish football to be done and basketball season to take over, are shocked about this growth, but welcome “Weight Room” Sissoko.
The kid has shown such significant progress in such a short amount of time that the Spartans have been able to go toe to toe with the #2 & #4 ranked teams in the country and could make a serious case they should be undefeated through that stretch. Sissoko’s improvement is galvanizing his teammates and giving Michigan State something they desperately have needed over a stretch of seasons that have been disappointing by MSU standards; a quality big man.
While the season is still young, the Spartans are looking more and more like the Tom Izzo teams of old, with the chippiness and toughness that have made Michigan State the basketball school that they are today. Growth from Mady Sissoko, paired with the dual threat combo of A. J. Hoggard & Tyson Walker at the guard positions will go a long way to helping MSU challenge a weaker Big Ten this season. The good feelings haven’t stopped at Sissoko either, as Tyson Walker also fed off the positive energy and drastically improved his decision-making down the stretch after the Spartans upset the #4 Kentucky Wildcats 86-77 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis in double overtime.
What will come of this season is unknown, especially with the gauntlet that faces them in the non-conference. However, the growth of Mady Sissoko is sure to leave Spartan fans excited about what the Green and White can accomplish moving forward.