EAST LANSING — Foster Loyer’s high school basketball career finished at the Breslin Center with a flourish.
In the 2018 MHSAA state semifinals and finals, Loyer scored a combined 82 points to lead Clarkston to its second straight state title. It was a fitting end to a high-scoring high school career.
Eight months later, his college career got underway in the same building. And it was quickly apparent that college basketball would be an adjustment.
Loyer played sparingly as Michigan State’s backup point guard as a freshman in 2018-19 as he worked to add strength and weight and learn how to play Big Ten basketball at his size (6-foot, 170 pounds).
Now, he heads into what could be a critical offseason and sophomore year that could see us find out what his future at Michigan State holds.
THE BASICS: Loyer averaged 5.8 minutes per game, scoring 1.6 points and recording 0.8 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point range.
QUOTE OF NOTE: “Peoples’ comments aren’t going to bother me. I know I can play, I know what I have inside me, I know what I can do.” — Loyer
BEST PERFORMANCE OF 2018-19: This one’s a no-brainer. In Michigan State’s Big Ten tournament opener against Ohio State, Loyer had a season-high 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting and 4-for-5 3-point shooting. In Michigan State’s 20 regular season Big Ten games, Loyer scored a combined nine points.
THE GOOD: See above. Late in an at times trying freshman season, Loyer gave a reminder of what he’s capable of accomplishing when he’s playing extended minutes and shooting the ball with confidence. Against Ohio State, Loyer didn’t show the hesitation on his shot that he did at times during the season and recorded three assists.
As expected for a point guard, he also had the second-best assist rate on the team and missed only one free throw all year (although that miss was with 36 seconds left in a one-point game at Louisville that Michigan State eventually lost.)
THE BAD: Life isn’t easy for a 6-foot, 170-pound point guard in the Big Ten. Loyer’s minutes were limited in large part because he struggled to defend opposing guard who were nearly always bigger and more athletic than he is.
Loyer’s turnover rate was also the highest on the team, and his shooting percentages weren’t at all indicative of what he’s capable of as a shooter.
THE ODD: Loyer came to Michigan State as one of the best 3-point shooters in Michigan high school basketball history. But whether it was not getting the same looks or simply a confidence issue, his long-range shot mostly abandoned him his freshman year. He went 8-for-27 from 3-point range after shooting better than 50 percent from range as a senior in high school.
REASONED PERSPECTIVE: Those who hoped Loyer would look like the same player he was in high school were quickly reminded that college basketball is a different animal for a player of Loyer’s size and athleticism. Freshman year was a reminder of how much of an adjustment this level well be.
It didn’t help that Michigan State’s starting point guard became the Big Ten player of the year and a national player of the year candidate — and a player the Spartans coaches couldn’t afford to take off the floor much.
Loyer seemed to keep a level head about it his situation throughout the year, saying he understood coming in that he would be playing behind a standout player and that playing time would be limited.
ASSESS AND GUESS IN 2019-20: Winston’s decision to return for his senior year meant that Loyer will again be Michigan State’s backup point guard as a sophomore.
That doesn’t mean his minutes have to stay the same, though. If Loyer can be more game-ready, he can help lessen Winston’s load and even potentially play alongside him. That will start with getting stronger and gaining weight this offseason.
The season sets up as a critical one for Loyer’s future career at Michigan State. The starting point guard job will be up for grabs after it and Michigan State is set to bring in point guard prospect as a freshman Jalen Terry for 2020-21. The decision between those two is a long way off, but Loyer’s play in 2019-20 will start to tell us if he can be Michigan State’s starting point guard in the future.