The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Coach Schaefer is changing the culture for the Dogs

Emma Katherine Hutto
Vic Schaefer

In 2014 Mississippi State University women’s basketball team enjoyed its best season since 2009-10 when they made the NCAA tournament and reached the Sweet 16 under then Head Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. This season, the Lady Bulldogs had an overall record of 22-14 and were a three-point-buzzer-beater away from playing in the Women’s NIT Final Four. This just one year after the team finished 13-17 and had its season end with a 30-point loss in the first round of the SEC Tournament to Alabama. A huge reason for the turnaround and resurgence of the women’s basketball program has been second-year Head Coach Vic Schaefer. Schaefer took over as the head coach of the program for the 2012-13 season. 

Schaefer said the 2013 season was vital to the team’s success in 2014. 

“That season — it was the first time most of our players played so it was trial by fire, and they had to really learn quickly,” Schaefer said. “Even though we didn’t win a lot of games, that experience was extremely valuable for them, and it made us better.” 

When Schaefer took over the program, it was in complete rebuild mode. MSU was coming off a disappointing season where the Lady Dogs posted a 14-16 record overall and 4-12 in the SEC. MSU had a disappointing season despite having six seniors on the roster. Not only was Schaefer taking over a losing team, but one that was losing nearly all of its best players. In his first season as coach, only two of his players had played significant minutes at the college level. 

Schaefer said his first impression of the girls when he was first hired was that they did not yet know how to be successful. 

“It was a situation where almost all of your players never played before, and it felt like they wanted to be good but just did not know how yet,” Schaefer said. 

Schaefer also said when he first met the girls, he wanted to provide them a family environment. 

“I just wanted them to know that we were going to be a family and that we cared about them,” Schaefer said. “I told them we want you to be successful in the classroom and on the court. The team GPA was 2.5 when I first got here and since it’s went up to 2.9 and then 3.1.” 

The losing appears to be over for the MSU women’s basketball team. The losses were very short-lived as the team only had one losing season under Schaefer, and the Lady Dogs appear only to be getting better. Schaefer’s first official recruiting class was last season when the Bulldogs brought in the No. 35 class in the nation. 

His recruiting savvy showed throughout the year as newcomers Savannah Carter, a junior college transfer, and freshmen Brianna Richardson, Dillingham and Ketara Chapel all were rotational players and helped contribute to the team’s success. Carter, Richardson and Dillingham all ended up becoming starters for the team. 

Schaefer said he could not have asked for more from his group of newcomers. 

“Whenever you bring in freshmen and ask them to start or play significant minutes in the SEC, that is a lot to ask of any player,” Schaefer said. “But we knew we would get something from Bre and Ketara because we just didn’t have a four man on the roster, so we knew they would have to play. And we just could not have asked for any more than we got from Bre. She was All-SEC freshman and really came through for us on many occasions.” 

This past season was exciting for women’s basketball at MSU, but the success appears to only be the tip of the iceberg. Schaefer and his staff followed up a solid 2013 recruiting class with an even better one for 2014 that is ranked top 20 in the nation. The class features Victoria Vivians, a five-star prospect and top 25 player in the nation; Lakaris Salter, a four-star prospect and Kayla Nevitt, Morgan William and Blair Schaefer, all three-star prospects. Blair is the daughter of Coach Schaefer. 

With the continued development and growth of the players already on the roster, leadership with five seniors on the roster for next season and the addition of a loaded recruiting class, the Bulldogs are set for a NCAA tournament berth in the 2014-15 season and possibly much bigger things in the future. In just his first two seasons as head coach, Schaefer has done a fantastic job in getting this team on the right track, and he has done it very quickly. With him at the helm the Bulldogs can become become a powerhouse in the SEC. 

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Coach Schaefer is changing the culture for the Dogs