June 25, 2012 12:51:04 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Ray just completed his first Southeastern Conference media teleconference Monday morning to gauge a preseason indication as to what the 14 teams in the league will have for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Ray didn't back away from the immediate problems that face the inherited MSU program he was given when he took after Rick Stansbury retired in March.
"Well, we'll have a brand new team," Ray said after laughing nervously.
Ray announced, as we already were told by MSU officials, junior forward Colin Borchert, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College, is the only signed member of the 2012 recruiting class currently on campus right now and the other members will arrive July 5 when the second summer session begins.
Ray talks about the immediate positives of the new NCAA rule allowing for more workouts with coaching supervision and instruction with players during the summer giving MSU a punchers chance at cohesion before the season. It should be noted ALL programs have this opportunity to work players out during the season so the "advantage" Ray feels he has is over last year's rules and not over other collegiate programs - just to be clear.
"I think one of the huge advantages we have now with the new rule is we're able to workout those guys," Ray said. "If you were to ask me that question without that, I'd be a little concerned about it. This gives us the opportunity to get things going right away, rather than later."
Ray laid out the bottom line problem for the MSU program during the 2012-13 season: If junior guard Jalen Steele and senior center Wendell Lewis don't score, the Bulldogs can't win - period. That means Ray is relying on two players with 22 combined starts last season and produced 12.5 points per game to be offensive stars next season.
"The big thing is with those guys is their on the top of the scouting report and not on the back page at the bottom of the scouting report," Ray said. "It used to be that Jalen and Wendell could have a bad game and Mississippi State could still win. If Jalen and Wendell struggle for us offensively, it's going to be hard for us to win that particular basketball game."
Borchert, who he expects to come in and compete immediately for a starting job at the power forward spot but that won't be the classic forward style that you've seen in past MSU teams. Ray envisions Borchert to be the tall, athletic forward that can make big people come out and guard him from beyond the three-point arc (think best case scenario of Purdue star Robbie Hummel who Ray coached as an assistant with the Boilermakers).
"Colin, I expect him to go out there and challenge for a starting forward spot. We need someone who can challenge Roquez [Johnson] for that starting four spot right away," Ray said. "I think Colin gives us that ability to make three pointers at that spot, which will be big for us."
Starkville High School forward Gavin Ware has the spotlight of Ray due to the fact that the new MSU coach is particularly aware of the signee's "tendency to put on some unnecessary weight."
For the story in Sunday's Dispatch where Ray was named area player of the year, Ware said he's down in the 240-245 range in terms of weight and wants to add muscle instead of unnecessary calories to prepare himself for the rigors of playing in the post at the next level.
"The key to becoming better at anything you do is being willing to put in the work," Ware said. "I want everybody to know and all the kids that look up to me to understand that hard work will get you far in this world, not just basketball."
For a first year head coach, Ray understands what he's trying to accomplish in this initial season of new leadership in the Humphrey Coliseum. It's an equation that most programs would tag with the dreaded 'rebuilding' word. A word Ray refuses to allow anybody around him to utter.
"We got seven incoming guys and five returning players and of those returning guys only two of them made significant contributions to the team last year. So we'll be new and we'll be inexperienced and we'll see how it turns out."
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