Mississippi State players Shaun Smith (left) and Kristers Zeidaks (right) have been dismissed from the men's basketball program for repeated violations of team rules
September 4, 2012 4:14:18 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University basketball coach Rick Ray announced on Tuesday the dismissal of Shaun Smith and Kristers Zeidaks for repeated violations of team rules.
"This is an unfortunate situation for Shaun, Kris and our team," MSU men's basketball coach Rick Ray said in a university release. "However, players must be held accountable for their actions. Both will remain on scholarship and have the academic support all our other student-athletes receive. I wish them the very best moving on with their careers."
The move leaves MSU with just nine healthy scholarship players for the 2012-13 season assuming freshman guard Fred Thomas recovers from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
Due to various injuries to his hip, knee and finger in his first two years with the MSU program, Smith appeared in just 34 games, including 10 games this past season. The 6-foot-6 guard from Noxubee County High School averaged 1.0 points and 0.6 rebounds last season. He was expected to compete with freshman Fred Thomas for playing time at one of the wing positions this upcoming season.
Ray was clearly excited about Smith's possibilities when he sat down with the media in early August to discuss the team.
The kid that I've been really pleased with, has really bought into the program and done everything he's supposed to do and just looks like a really good basketball player in the individual workouts, is Shaunessy Smith," Ray said on Aug. 9. "I'm happy for him personally that he hasn't been injured so far here. I think he's excited about that, and then he's always been second in the shooting drills as far as with Jalen. I think us having a big wing, which we really don't have, that can shoot the basketball the way Shaunessy's been shooting the basketball, I'm excited about the possibility of what he can do for us."
Zeidaks, a 6-8 junior guard from Riga, Latvia, never played for MSU due to NCAA eligibility issues.
The NCAA Eligibility Center ruled on Nov. 3, Zeidaks, would be suspended for the entire 2011-12 season and 11 games this season for his participation in a league with and against pro players in his home country. In early August, Ray was already skeptical as to the impact Zeidaks would make in the 2012-13 season after missing all that playing time before Christmas break.
"Right now, he's still kind of down about the fact that he's going to have miss the first 11 games, Ray said on Aug. 9. "How he does and how he performs on the court will be interesting to se how it's played out because a lot of things can happen in those 11 games as far as you being excited what guys are doing on the court and you being disappointed with what guys are doing on the court. He'll come into a fluid situation as far as us being in the first 11 games of the season already."
Ray, who is entering his first season as a college basketball head coach at the Division 1 level, was hired on April 1 after the resignation of Rick Stansbury with one of the objectives being to clean up the perception of the MSU program.
"I support and respect Rick's willingness to make a difficult decision," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said in a statement.
MSU's preseason practice begins in just over 30 days and for the first time since the 2005 campaign, MSU will open its basketball season on the road. The Bulldogs travel to Troy University in a Nov. 9 showdown against the Trojans to open the 2012-13 campaign.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT