This afternoon, Mississippi State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will have their on-campus media day in advance of their seasons starting in a few weeks.
I’ll share updates as the day moves along, starting with women’s basketball first, then updated with men’s basketball at the top when Rick Ray and his players come in.
As we wait, the latest installment of This Is Our Plate is linked below to pass the time (we made the Filet of Oscar at The Grill)
Alright, Rick Ray is here. Time to get the men’s portion started.
As for the injury to Craig Sword (back), Ray said there’s a good chance he won’t miss any games. If he does, it’ll likely be two or three max.
Ray also touched on football’s success in his opening comments, saying their success is due to leadership and hard work, which “is a good teaching point for our guys.”
Moving on to his team, Ray says two qualities stand out: length and athleticism. Both of which he says his team hasn’t had much of previously.
When Sword returns, Ray said he’ll play a fair bit of point guard. Not as a permanent move, but just so that MSU has a bigger and more physical option when MSU plays against some bigger point guards at different points in the schedule.
Lot of discussion on newcomers from Ray. He says freshman guard Demetrius Houston is one of if not the most athletic guy on the team. he’ll be relied on early if Sword misses time.
Ray has also been complimentary of Travis Daniel, a big, long and physical player who Ray expects to mostly play at the 3-spot because of his ball skills and smooth shot. He’s a good mismatch kind of guy.
He also mentioned forward Oliver Black as someone who is pushing junior Gavin Ware and giving him competition, something he’s never really had before. He expects that to make everyone involved better players.
Ray said the depth this year will give them the opportunity to go with something of a jumbo lineup where they’ll have Sword at point, Fred Thomas and Daniel at guards and guys like Ware and Black in the post. Certainly much more size than MSU has previously had.
Ray talking about his schedule now, says he scheduled good teams like Oregon State, Florida State and Utah State, “because I think we can win those games.”
Those on the outside may not be overly confident, but Ray seems to have a reserved excitement about his team. He clearly believes his team to be very good, and likely much better than it seems most expect.
“We had success in the non-conference last season, but struggled in the conference. So if we have success in the non-conference, which we fully expect, we have something to look forward to and keep these guys grounded.”
On Fred Thomas: “I think he is an outstanding defender. He’s a legitimate All-SEC player, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t be … He’s got an uncanny ability to move his feet. What’s made him an even better defender since he got here is he’s got strength now.”
As Ray closes it out, he tells us how happy he is about the new video board. Going from standard definition to HD, a nice switch.
Women’s coach Vic Schaefer is the first to the podium as this shindig begins on the floor of The Hump.
“I think everybody in maroon has come to learn the expectations that we have and excited to see the brand of basketball we have here at Mississippi State.”
Beyond the newcomers, Schaefer says, MSU has four starters returning who will be playing the top-20 signing class.
With those newcomers and the returning stars, Schaefer acknowledges it will be more difficult this season to play the underdog role.
“We’re not gonna fly under the radar with any coach in our conference. We’ve got respect throughout the league. I don’t think anybody’s gonna take MSU for granted.”
“You might as well embrace those expectations people have for us,” he added. “We’re trying to prepare for a great season.”
Asked specifically about senior guard Kendra Grant, Schaefer says, “She needs to play well for us to have a good season.”
What can take this team to the NCAA Tournament?
“Our seniors have to play like seniors,” he lists first, then says sophomores need to make big jumps from their freshman year, and the freshmen have to live up to the hype.
If that happens, he says, “It’s a recipe for a lot of success.”
I like this quote from Schaefer on who gets to play: “That basketball doesn’t know if you’re a freshman or a senior. That’s how I am. I’m all about production.”