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

Kegler, freshmen begin practice for Bulldogs

Mississippi State basketball started practice on Tuesday as head coach Ben Howland prepares one of the youngest teams he has ever coached for the 2016-17 season. 

Mississippi State will have a lot of new faces around the program this season after losing a core trio of seniors in Fred Thomas, Craig Sword and Gavin Ware, as well as losing Malik Newman, who transferred to Kansas. 

To replace them, MSU has seven scholarship true freshman on the roster. According to’s composite rating, all but one of the freshman are four stars.

Senior point guard I.J. Ready talked about patience when teaching the younger players. 

“Last year we had seniors that had been in the SEC and understood what they had to do,” Ready said. “All these freshman come in and don’t grasp the concept of college basketball when they first came. They came a long way but still have a long way to go, I think patience is the key when you are talking to them and they still have a lot to learn.”

Schnider Herard, who is originally from Haiti before moving to the U.S. in high school to play in Plano, Texas, and Mario Kegler out of Jackson, Mississippi, are the headliners of the class. Kegler, a small forward, and Schnider, a center, were both ranked in the top 52 players in the country coming out of high school and were both top 10 at their positions. 

Also joining them are Eli Wright, form Owensboro, Kentucky, Lamar Peters, from New Orleans, Louisiana and Abdul Ado, a native born Nigerian who moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee in high school. Also there is E.J. Datcher out of Vincent, Alabama, and Tyson Carter, who is a Starkville native and the son of former Bulldog basketball player Gregg Carter. 

Head coach Ben Howland said he expects all six of the eligible freshman to play, later joking about how stressful the season will be.

“We are going to be, if not the youngest, one of the youngest team in the country,” Howland said. “That is going to be both fun and exciting but also excruciating, I want to look at my head right now and then we will compare a photo to see how much hair I have lost at the end of the season.”

The team got some experience under their belt in August. They took a trip to Italy and went 4-0 against professional players overseas. Howland was glad they had the trip so he could get a head start on showing the younger players how to practice.

“I thought the trip this summer to Italy and the opportunity to practice was a really good thing for this team because of our youth,” Howland said.

However, the player whom many consider the top recruit for MSU entering this year did not make it to the Italy trip because he had yet to be cleared academically to play by the NCAA. That has been cleared up, and he is good to go now. Kegler talked about what he did while the team was in Italy.

“For me it was motivation,” Kegler said. “I just stayed here, got in the gym, worked and told myself just get better and God will handle everything.”

Abdul Ado is another player struggling to get eligibility from the NCAA. Coach Howland said he is on scholarship and taking classes but is not eligible to practice and play. Howland said there is still some paperwork that needs to be done. 

Xavian Stapleton is a transfer from Louisiana Tech who sat out last season due to transfer rules but is also recovering from an ACL tear. Howland said he has been through about 45 minutes of drills on Monday in but is not ready for practice. Howland said he is hopeful to get him back by the end of December but will be conservative with his knee. 

MSU basketball is a month out from their first game. They will start the season on Nov. 11 against Norfolk State. 

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Kegler, freshmen begin practice for Bulldogs