If you're even a casual college basketball fan, you don't need anyone to tell you about Michigan State's reputation. Iconic coach Tom Izzo has achieved soaring heights — including a national championship in 2000 — largely on the basis of aggressive defensive and dogged rebounding.
But while they've obviously been successful on both ends of the court, they've played better defense than offense for most of the past decade.
Matt McQuaid could help change that. Last season's Spartans actually did feature a top 15 offense, but they suffered heavy graduation losses and need to retool. McQuaid is a long-range bomber who's more complete than your typical designated shooter. His overall ability should enable him to pass muster on defense, but clearly his primary value will be perimeter scoring.
McQuaid toured with stacked Team Texas Elite on the EYBL circuit and, while his squad underachieved, he racked up impressive numbers with a 16-point scoring average.
The Texas native committed to SMU in May, ostensibly ending his recruitment. But he reopened in July and attracted a host of big-time suitors after they were able to observe him during the live evaluation period.
But McQuaid pledged to the Spartans following his official visit to East Lansing last weekend. He cited a close relationship with Izzo as a decisive factor.
Well, as you already may have inferred, three-point shooting stands out most. McQuaid is an excellent shooter, knocking down 45 percent on treys during his 16 games on the EYBL circuit. He took well over half of his field goal attempts from deep, so clearly he understands his role on a talented team.
|McQuaid's playing style is cold and calculating|
McQuaid boasts a quick release, suggesting effective translation to college. He's one of those guys who releases his shot a split second before reaching full extension with his legs, making his release more functionally rapid than it may appear.
The key point to emphasize here is that while shooting is what McQuaid does best, it isn't the only thing he does well. He shot 50 percent from the field overall, so clearly he makes the most of his two-point attempts. He possesses above-average quickness both as a driver (albeit he typically looks to pass or pull up rather than go all the way to the rim) and on defense.
McQuaid doesn't project as a prime defender for MSU, but he should be okay. He's also a capable handler and passer who, averaging four rebounds per game, should fit the bill in terms of toughness.
McQuaid's lack of strength could hamper his playing time for a season or two. He has slight shoulders and will need to add muscle without losing flexibility or burst, always a potential issue for athletes with his body type.
Meanwhile, he doesn't create his shot all that effectively one-on-one, and he goes to the free throw line infrequently. More surprising, he converted just 61 percent (25-41) of his free attempts this year, though clearly that's a small sample size that underscores the point about his not drawing many fouls.
He's likely to suffer some athleticism disadvantages versus elite opponents, but again, I don't perceive that to be as much of a problem than typically is the case for a designated shooter.
McQuaid is a talented, top-75 player who's sufficiently gifted to contribute and likely start for MSU in an absolute sense, and he's even more valuable when one factors in the program's needs.
He'll fill a potential void based on the fact, for example, that 2014 point guard signee Lourawls Nairn is a non-shooter. The Spartans need a balanced backcourt, and a Nairn/McQuaid tandem could prove highly effective within the Big Ten and nationally.
Long-term, McQuaid will need to improve his movement off the ball and develop into a pick-and-roll shooting specialist in order to secure a place at the professional level. He has time on his side, though, and in the interim he'll bring valuable contributions to the Spartans' program.