AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker compete for Michigan State basketball PG job


EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo quickly quipped that his point guard battle between A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker was a “quarterback controversy.” Even jokingly compared them to Oklahoma football’s Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams.

In reality, one of the biggest salesmen for Walker to transfer from Northeastern to Michigan State basketball during the offseason happened to be his chief competitor for minutes: Hoggard.

“I just told him it’s a real family,” Hoggard, a sophomore, said after practice Wednesday. “A lot of schools preach it, I’ve been through it. … It’s truly a family, truly a brotherhood here. I just told him if he comes here, he’s gonna be locked in from Day 1, and everybody’s gonna show him love.”

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And after a 2020-21 season in which Izzo blamed himself for persistent problems at point guard that almost led to his NCAA tournament streak ending, the Spartans feel Hoggard and Walker present advantages running the offense as they battle for the starting job.

“They’re both like New York City cab drivers,” Izzo said Wednesday. “They get along well together, they both work very hard. They’re a little different — one shoots it better than the other, one’s bigger and stronger; one defends on the ball a little bit better, one rebounds a little better. So I think it’s gonna be a good combination. And if we run like I want to run, we’re gonna have to put more guys in.”

MSU, which went 15-13 while being eliminated in the NCAA tournament’s First Four by UCLA, struggled to find an answer at point guard. Foster Loyer opened as the starter, followed by Rocket Watts took over, but both struggled for various reasons and left the program. Loyer transferred to Davidson and Watts to Mississippi State.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Hoggard, who underwent a knee procedure before last season, worked his way into starting eight of his 26 games, averaging 2.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 13.4 minutes as a freshman. He shot 30.7% overall, including 3-for-18 on 3-pointers, but he used his size and ability to get into traffic off the dribble and get others involved.

After dropping 20 pounds during the offseason, Hoggard said he feels he went from “a little sluggish” in summer 2020 to “a lot better” coming into his second season.

“I feel I can go longer,” Hoggard said. “I feel a lot stronger. I feel quicker when I’m pushing outlet.”

Though Hoggard is the best returning option at the point, and MSU added freshman combo guard Jaden Akins, Izzo still pursued Walker. The 6-foot, 175-pound junior averaged 18.8 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals last season for Northeastern, becoming a first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association pick and winning the league’s defensive player of the year award. He also emerged as a finalist for two national awards — the Lou Henson Award, which goes to the top mid-major player, and the Lefty Driesell National Player of the Year, given annually to the top defensive player in Division I.

Hoggard said Wednesday he and Walker have played against each other since fourth grade in travel competition. Both are from the East Coast — Walker from Westbury, New York (on Long Island) and Hoggard from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

“Tyson made me a lot better…,” Hoggard said. “Growing up going to the tournaments, we played each other every weekend. We formed a relationship since fourth grade, our parents know each other. So him coming here kind of gave me a sense of back home.”

And with that shared background comes a grittiness and competitiive nature seemingly inherent in guards from the East Coast. It is something Hoggard said he admires in Walker and tries to emulate, which he feels is bringing out the best in both ahead of Nov. 9’s the season opener against Kansas at the Champions Classic.

Fittingly for them, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“It’s great, because we can go here, we can almost get into an argument, altercation — however you want to call it — on the court, because we’re competing and because we’re both competitors,” Hoggard said. “And afterward, we can go to the locker room like nothing happened, because that’s my brother.”

Exhibitions set

Before facing Kansas, the Spartans will host Ferris State on Oct. 27 and Grand Valley State on Nov. 4. Both exhibition games against Division II opponents will tip off at 7 p.m. at Breslin Center and be streamed on Big Ten Network-Plus.

Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

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Fundraiser started for Texas DPS Trooper Chad Walker, family

Trooper Chad Walker was shot in the head and abdomen Friday night just outside of Mexia, officials said. He remains at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest in Waco.

MEXIA, Texas — A GoFundMe account was started to raise money for Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Chad Walker as he remains in the hospital after being shot near Mexia Friday night. 

According to the fundraiser’s organizer, Kara Hardin, the funds will go to Walker and his family.

“With permission of the family, we are collecting funds to assist with medical and travel needs during this very difficult time,” Hardin said on the fundraiser’s homepage. “All proceeds will go directly to assisting Chad, Tobie, and the kids as they have a long road of recovery ahead of them.”

Walker was shot in the head and abdomen Friday evening as he stopped behind what appeared to be a disabled vehicle on the roadway at FM 2848 and Highway 84 in Limestone County, according to the Texas DPS Officers Association.

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The shooting suspect, later identified as DeArthur Pinson, Jr., then grabbed a black backpack from the disabled vehicle and fled the scene, officials said.

Walker was flown to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest in Waco where he remained in stable, but critical condition. 

As a manhunt for Pinson, Jr. began, a blue alert was issued. A day after the search started, Texas DPS said Pinson, Jr. was found barricaded in a home near Mexia. Officials added that Pinson, Jr. was dead when they reached him. They said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

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According to the fundraiser page, Walker and his wife have four children including a 15-year-old son, twin 7-year-old daughters and a 2-month-old daughter. The fundraiser set a goal of $20,000 for the family and has raised more than $17,300 at the time of this writing. 

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Dog walker finds critically endangered golden sun moth beside rubbish tip | Victoria

A critically endangered species of moth has been discovered in an urban area next to a rubbish tip in Wangaratta in Victoria’s north-east.

A resident, Will Ford, was walking his dogs one evening in December when he spotted a moth he didn’t recognise.

He snapped a photo and posted it on iNaturalist Australia, an online forum, where experts identified it as a rare golden sun moth.

“You don’t necessarily need to go out into the wilderness to find something really cool,” Ford said. “You can just be walking around an urban area and there might be native habitat where there’s species you can photograph and identify, which can help contribute to national understanding of management of species.”

An independent wildlife biologist, Ian Davidson, said he was astounded by the discovery.

“Luckily [Ford] took a photo – I wouldn’t have believed him,” he said. “It’s never been recorded here. I would have bet the house it wouldn’t have been there.”

Davidson, who is on the committee of Wangaratta Land Care and Sustainability, said the sighting was all the rarer considering these moths only live for one to four days, and generally only come out during the sunniest time of the day.

Ford contacted the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, which confirmed the identification on 21 January.

Davidson said the discovery showed “what environmental treasures there are within our urban area and it helps the community and councillors understand that they can’t develop without decent thought and planning”.

Because every population is isolated “like little islands” and the females are poor fliers – able to travel no more than 100 metres – “they can’t migrate, so you’ve got to protect what habitat there is”, Davidson said.

He highlighted the role of the native wallaby grass – a nondescript variety often overlooked as not having much environmental value. “This beautiful species is dependent on this bit of wallaby grass,” he said.

Ford has now joined Wangaratta Land Care and Sustainability and said the group was hoping to work with Wangaratta council to preserve the moth’s habitat.

“There’s been a lot of development in the vicinity we found the moth,” he said. “[There’s] local concern that this habitat area is shrinking further. We hope the council steps up and takes this discovery seriously and dedicates resources to managing that area appropriately.”

Davidson said: “This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be development, it should just be wise and thoughtful. Council’s stated aim is liveability and a key part of that liveability is including nature and maintaining natural areas with development around it.

“Findings like this help get the message out to the community of what we have and that it’s worth protecting.”

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Kemba Walker says he was pain-free in season debut as Boston Celtics blown out by New York Knicks

BOSTON — Little went right for the Celtics in a 105-75 shellacking at the hands of the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

But the Celtics will happily take the ugly outcome if star point guard Kemba Walker continues to feel as good moving forward as he did after his season debut.

“I felt really comfortable making my moves,” Walker said after finishing with nine points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals in 20 minutes. “[I was] pain-free, which I haven’t been for a very long time.

“It feels weird actually not having pain, if that makes sense. It’s kind of a weird feeling. I’ve been hurt for a very long time, so I was really just happy to get out there, just super excited. It was fun. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

Sunday’s game was Walker’s first since the Eastern Conference finals, when the Celtics fell to the Miami Heat in six games. After Boston’s season ended, Walker got an injection in his troublesome left knee and then went on a 12-week strengthening program to try to build it back up after it had bothered him for the past year.

It was only one game — and a rough one at that, as a clearly rusty Walker shot 3-for-13 from the field and went 1-for-8 from 3-point range. But Walker sounded relieved to be able to play without pain for the first time in a long time, saying he felt “joy” at being able to make moves on the court without pain flaring up in his knee.

“When did I feel fully healthy? I don’t know. … I can’t tell you exactly when,” Walker said. “But it’s just like … as the days go by, mentally, it’s just like every day, every day I’m not thinking about it.

“At one point it was like, mentally that’s all I could think about. Like, on the court, in the bubble, that’s all I could think about was my knee. Every step I took, every move I made, it was something, even when I wasn’t playing. Now I’m out there and I’m trying to do a step-back and the first thing out of my mind is like, ‘Damn, this is probably going to hurt.’ Not even worried about making or missing the shot; it’s just about the pain.

“Today when I’m out there, I’m making the moves I normally make and I don’t feel anything and it’s joy. I’m excited. I put in a lot of work. I really attacked my rehab to get where I’m at, and I want to continue to build off this and just try to stay healthy. That’s the most important thing.”

On a day when nothing else went right for the Celtics, who felt the absence of All-Star Jayson Tatum, who didn’t play because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Walker looked spry moving around the court.

“It feels weird actually not having pain, if that makes sense. It’s kind of a weird feeling. I’ve been hurt for a very long time, so I was really just happy to get out there, just super excited. It was fun. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

Kemba Walker, on his season debut

From the opening tip he showed good burst, getting into the lane to make a couple of nifty passes to Tristan Thompson and Grant Williams for layups and cutting into a passing lane and charging upcourt with the ball before being called for a travel on a play in which he could have easily been given a foul call instead.

While the Celtics would have preferred Walker and his teammates knock down a few more shots, coach Brad Stevens was encouraged by what he saw from his star guard.

“I thought, as anybody would have predicted with very limited practice time, there were parts that he probably felt a little rusty,” Stevens said. “But as far as physically moving up and down the floor, all those type of things, I thought he looked good.”

Walker struggled with his knee before last season was stopped in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and then was limited by it when Boston returned to play in the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, over the summer.

After the strengthening program, Walker has slowly been ramping up his workload — a process that hit a snag because of Boston’s recent issues with COVID-19, as Robert Williams III and Tatum tested positive and several other players were in contact tracing. As a result, Boston had three games postponed last week before returning to the court for a win over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

“Very little,” Stevens said when asked how much Walker has practiced with his teammates. “But he’s done a lot with, prior to our mini shutdown last week, he got in a lot with coaches. [Then he] increased his work each day throughout that period. … Not probably your typical practice, but they feel really good about where he is, and he feels really good about where he is.”

Boston entered Sunday with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 8-3 but couldn’t get anything going against the Knicks, who snapped a five-game losing streak. The Celtics felt the loss of Tatum, who is averaging 26.9 points per game, on a day when they couldn’t knock down an open 3-pointer.

While Jaylen Brown continued his hot start, scoring 25 points, no other Celtic scored more than 10 points and the rest of the team combined to shoot 4-for-37 from 3.

Ultimately, though, the Celtics know that they need Walker, Tatum and Brown all playing at a high level to be the contender they hope to be. That is why they’ll still view Sunday’s game as a positive.

Now, Boston will wait to see how Walker’s knee responds to him getting back on the court again, a process that will likely include a minutes limit for some time.

“I don’t,” Walker said, when asked when his minutes limit will end. “I’m going to be honest, I hope it’s over next game. But I’m sure it’s going to be for a few games.

“I’m just getting back. We just want to see how my knee reacts after these games and stuff like that. It’ll ramp up, though. I’ll get there. It’s no rush. I already took my time coming back, and I’m going to keep taking my time until I’m full go.”

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