I wouldn’t call it a rite of passage, but new Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Ray did have his first experience on the SEC teleconference this morning, a ritual I’m sure he will treasure each week when the season begins.
As it began, the moderator asked Ray to share his thoughts on the upcoming season for MSU.
“Well, we’ll have a brand new team,” Ray said before laughing a bit.
He’s right about that. Ray did pass along a few notes on that brand new team, as well as a few interesting quotes.
- Forward and junior college transfer Colin Borchert is the only signee on campus right now, but Ray expects the rest of them to be in town in July. Naturally, Ray is excited to have his full team on campus and thinks the new NCAA rule allowing for more workouts with players will give him a jump-start on the season. Because of that, Ray said, he’s not as worried about putting together so many unfamiliar pieces this season.
“I think one of the huge advantages we have now with the new rule is we’re able to workout those guys,” Ray said. “If you were to ask me that question without that, I’d be a little concerned about it. This gives us the opportunity to get things going right away, rather than later.”
- As for those signees, Ray only mentioned two, both forwards. The first, of course, was Borchert, who he expects to come in and compete immediately for a starting job at the four spot.
“Colin, I expect him to go out there and challenge for a starting forward spot. We need someone who can challenge Roquez [Johson] for that starting four spot right away,” Ray said. “I think Colin gives us that ability to make three pointers at that spot, which will be big for us.”
- The other signee Ray mentioned was Starkville High School forward Gavin Ware, who Ray said, “has a tendency to put on some unnecessary weight.” Ray expects the coaches and strength staff to make sure that isn’t an issue once Ware gets on campus in July.
- Ray also said Ware could compete with senior Wendell Lewis for the starting center position, but that he expects Lewis and junior guard Jalen Steele to maintain starting roles and be two of the most important players on the team.
“The big thing with those guys is they’re at the top of the scouting report, instead of the bottom of the page,” Ray said. “Pretty much now if Jalen and Wendell struggle for us offensively, it’s gonna be hard to win that basketball game.”
The difference between the two, of course, is that Steele has more experience both as a starter and in big moments in games.
“I think Jalen has a little bit more flavor for being out there in crunch time,” Ray said.
- One final note from the teleconference: Ray shared that Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson sent him a note after he was hired at Mississippi State, wishing him luck and congratulating him. Ray said people may think coaches hate each other, but that they recognize the situation they’re in, and that he particularly likes Anderson after seeing him regularly on the recruiting trail.
That’s it for notes and quotes, but it certainly isn’t the end of basketball in the near future. I was able to sit down for a nice, long chat with Ray recently, as well as a talk with Wendell Lewis last week, so be on the lookout for stories and a few blog posts from those conversations on HailState.com and here on the HailState Beat.