Jalen Steele spoke to the media Wednesday about being the returning scorer in Rick Ray's first season as coach of the Buldogs. Photo by: MSU athletics
April 18, 2012 8:47:21 PM
STARKVILLE - Without further ado:
Item No. 1 - A conversation with Jalen Steele -
STARKVILLE - And then there was Jalen Steele.
The junior guard on the Mississippi State University men's basketball program is one of the few players left on the Bulldogs roster since Rick Ray has taken over as the 19th coach in school history.
Only one of the top seven scorers will be returning in the 2012-13 season leaving Steele, who averaged 8.7 points per game last season, as the Bulldogs leader in things beyond the scoring category.
"We don't really have to really worry about who's going to go where and where they're going to go," Steele said. "Now we can work with the group that's here. So, my focus is on school and basketball, now. There's nothing else more to that."
Asked by The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog if the message to Ray, who is out touring the country trying to piece together an acceptable first recruiting class at MSU, is go get players that can help immediately - the answer was a resounding yes.
"Coach Ray is on his job," Steele said. "We have to go out there and work two times harder than we ever have in our entire life just to keep the team in shape. We don't have to worry about who is going to go where and now we can work with the group that is here."
Like a lot MSU fans and media, Steele had a lot of questions for Ray after he was hired to replace the retired Rick Stansbury as the Bulldogs head coach. Specifically the questions were based on who are you and how does that relate to my college career at MSU?
"It was a lot of questions and my family got involved with it asking him a lot of questions," Steele said. "So we got to know each other quick. He knows what I can and can't do now."
Steele denied rumors and reports he was seriously considering the option of transferring away from the MSU program similarly to the decision All-SEC freshman Rodney Hood made this month after Ray was hired.
"I sat back and thought about it," Steele said. "Me and Wendell (Lewis), we've been here so long, and we worked so hard for what we're about to get next year, and how much we worked, and we've still got more work to do. I told Wendell, man, don't listen to all that. We're going to stay still, stay strong, and stick this on out."
Steele did say he would have point guard duties "here and there" next season but nobody should be anticipating the 6-foot-3 guard to have ball-handling duties beyond trying to create scoring opportunities for himself either in the lane or eventually getting the free throw line more than he has in his MSU career.
"This year I'm focusing on dribbling and driving more this year," Steele said. "Instead of facilitating others with my shot. I have to step up in a bigger role and I'm ready for that. Dee (Bost)had the ball more and did most of the creating to help us score more. This year it's time for me to step into the role he was."
More importantly, Steele recognizes he has to be the verbal leader in this new era of MSU basketball and suddenly has to be the player to take charge in the locker room and on the playing court starting next season. After being quiet and waiting for his turn, Steele said Wednesday he's ready for the challenge.
"I'm comfortable with it," Steele said. "All my life and throughout high school and AAU days, I'm always that vocal leader on the court. I'm going to be strong and we have to push through this."
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