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

Howland, Bulldogs optimistic going into season

Courtesy Photo| Media Relations

Freshman shooting guard Malik Newman(pictured left) will be a key piece of Ben Howland’s Bulldog squad. Newman was rated  No. 22 in ESPN’s Top 100 College Players rankings.

Another season of Mississippi State basketball will begin today with an exhibition match against Fort Valley State. There is a great deal of excitement surrounding the  men’s team as they start off the year  with new improvements. Whether it’s highly touted  freshman recruit Malik Newman or new head coach Ben Howland, who took UCLA to three consecutive final four appearances, the   squad’s revamps have given them plenty of hype to live up to. 

The Bulldogs’ had an oppurtunity to play the University of Alabama at Birmingham before facing Fort Valley. Howland was optimistic after the winning effort, saying  he saw a lot of promise in what could be a very talented  team.

“I thought our guys really played,” Howland said. “They really competed and showed a lot of energy. UAB is a good team and that was a good test for us.” 

The Bulldogs’ next opponent, Fort Valley State, is led by fifth-year head coach Sammy Jackson  and finished with a 4-23 record overall in NCAA Division II.  Fort Valley leading scorer from last season, Senior center Ralph Wilson, returns to lead the Wildcats on the floor this year. 

  To the dismay of many MSU fans, the Bulldogs will be without shooting guard Malik Newman due to turf toe.  Demetrius Houston is also out with turf toe and will be sidelined for the game Friday. In addition to these two players, the Bulldogs will also be without freshmen forwards Joe Strugg and Aric Holman due to injuries. 

“We are snake bit with toe injuries right now,” Howland said when addressing Houston’s injury. Even with all the minor injuries occurring, Howland remains optimistic and  is still  enjoying his first season as Mississippi State’s head basketball coach.  “I’m having a lot of fun and I’m excited,”  the first-year head coach said. “ I will just be so relieved to be healthy with 10 guys.”

The team returns four starters and three letter winners from last year’s team.  That experience coupled with an exceptional recruiting class, compliments of Ben Howland, could make for a very special season in Starkville.  Senior forward Gavin Ware certainly thinks so.

“I have full belief in this team,” Ware said. “I do everything I have to do to provide for my teammates and I know they do the same thing as well throughout the year.”

After the scrimmage Saturday the senior said his only regret was that the Bulldogs’ scrimmage was not able to be open to the crowd. Ware obviously feels the excitment and anxiety around the team building up leading into their season opener against  Eastern Washington.

“The way we played, if we would have had the crowd it would have been amazing. Our defensive intensity was amazing and the crowd would have enjoyed it,” Ware said. 

Junior guard I.J. Ready has noticed the team’s transformation thus far also and is looking forward to beginning the season after ending last year on a high note.

“We have improved since Coach Howland arrived,” Ready said. “Everyday we come to practice we learn and it makes us better. Everyone is making strides including myself.”

The exhibition game between the Bulldogs and Wildcats will tip-off at 7 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum with free admission to the public. MSU’s next action after the scrimmage will be the season opener against Eastern Washington on Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.

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Howland, Bulldogs optimistic going into season