With both teams season-openers coming Friday night, Rick Ray and Vic Schaefer’s teams are having their on-campus media day today. We start momentarily with the women, and we’ll hear from the men early this afternoon in a post-lunch chat.
Chatting with Rick Ray to open the men’s portion, who says one of the big things has been working on players’ physical condition so they can play hard, tough and long.
Lot of guys have changed their bodies, adding or dropping weight as needed.
Ray says Craig sWord will be more comfortable staying at the two-guard instead of point, think Fred Thomas will play better having some mass on him to get through picks.
Two big things for Ray: turnovers and rebounding.
Ray on Thomas: “He’s gotta be a consistent scorer for us. He has the talent to get us 15 points a game for us, but he can’t go out and get 24 points for us one night, then nine the next. … I think Fred will be a good shooter. We just need consistency for him to be an offensive performer for us.”
Now, speaking on depth, Ray says the frontline is very thin. As such, Andre Applewhite will be the bird four-man at forward, in addition to playing some guard.
“Last year, I didn’t know what my team’s strengths and weaknesses were. This year, I do.”
Going back to rebounding, Ray says part of what’s helped is a change in coaching style. Last year, he said, he would interrupt and stop practice to coach a little too much. Now, he lets guys go through the entire possession, which obviously is more opportunities for rebounding in practice.
On defense, Ray says he works with guys on fundamentals. “A lot of times, if you just do what you’re supposed to do, opposing teams will end up giving you the ball … Don’t gamble. Don’t put our team in a bad situation because you gambled.”
Baxter Price reference!
“Our guys have gotten better, but there’s now ay to measure that until you go out and play games. There needs to be actual results from this so-called maturation.”
Ray does think players and team have gotten better, but making the point that none of it matters until it’s done against an opponent.
“We were one of the better team’s in the nation in causing steals, but when we played advantage basketball, we didn’t finish because we didn’t make good decisions passing the basketball, we didn’t finish at the rim or we just didn’t make shots.”
Ray says team missed six layups in exhibition, so finishing is a big point of emphasis for him.
Talking to strength and conditioning coach Richard Akins now.
Asked about Gavin Ware, said the biggest thing he had to do was learn what type of body he needed to be the best player he can be, particularly with style of play both at MSU and within the SEC.
“When he started seeing improvement in his play as his body changed, that’s when he was really able to buy in.”
Oh, who knew. this is the 40th season of basketball for the Bulldogs. Neat. Bulldogs open at Houston on Friday.
What Schaefer likes as he prepares for that opener is “tremendous improvement” not just from last year to now, but over the course of eight days from MSU’s first exhibition to second. He’s hopeful for even more improvement as season begins.
“I like our young kids,” Schaefer said. Really excited about freshmen and newcomers. They add depth, at the very least, but thinks they’ll have a big impact both from bench and in the starting lineup, where at least some will reside.
“Certainly, they bring a lot to the table.”
Here’s a stat I missed form the exhibition win the other night: between Schaefer’s two point guards, they only had one turnover. Impressive.
“That’s a really good thing.”
Junior forward Martha Alwal was named to second team All-SEC by coaches yesterday.
“She responded the way I knew she would,” Schaefer said. “When I told her, she frowned and said, ‘I wanna be first-team.’ She’s gonna do what she needs to do to make that happen.”
Schaefer’s goal for Alwal is 16 points and 12 rebounds every night.
“You’re gonna be a top-15 draft pick if you can do that in the SEC.”
Asked what the biggest improvement in his team from year one to year two, Schaefer didn’t hesitate to say competitiveness. Said they had to teach it last year, but it’s understood this year.
Interesting hearing him talk about depth, too.
“We were talking in a staff meeting this morning that when our bench came in the other night, there was no drop-off. You’re doing some things right in recruiting when that starts happening.”
Oh, cool. Schaefer is taking full advantage of trip to Houston for opener. Going to a children’s hospital during the day Friday, then the whole team is going to College Station for the football game Saturday.