October 23, 2013 7:43:46 PM
STARKVILLE - After a 20-minute scrimmage in front of fans and students at Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray was able to point to one player that made a difference - his 5-foot-10 point guard.
IJ Ready, the three-star prospect from Little Rock, ended with 10 points, two steals, two assists and made himself instantly known as the energy that will make this 2013-14 squad go.
"What you saw is we switched one guy, a little 5-10 freshman point guard and it changed both teams," Ray said. "Not just the team that ended up playing with him, the white team, but the maroon team went downhill too. He's a significant difference in terms of our guys toughness and competitiveness."
Ready showed his quickness on both ends of the floor by being very educated on using a pick-and-roll screen with a forward. He also guarded his position early without fouling, something that will be emphasized by the officials this season, and taking the ball away from a walk-on twice before they hit the timeline.
"He plays real aggressive all the time and you have to respect how hard he plays," MSU sophomore guard Fred Thomas said.
Thomas led all scorers Wednesday night with 13 points on 5 of 9 from the field and two steals.
"You can tell with his big heart that when he pushes the ball on the break that you need to be ready to shoot and he's going to open up my game for me," Thomas said.
Ready will be the immediate instant impact guard looking to raise the numbers of last year's trio of freshman in center Gavin Ware and guards Craig Sword along with Fred Thomas. Ready's presence allows Sword to move to his natural two-guard position in the offense and give a running mate to Thomas' athletic ability in the open court on the fast break.
"He's a pass-first point guard and in that sense he's a coach's dream to know that he judges himself based on whether everybody around him is having success," Ray said last week at Southeastern Conference media day in Birmingham, Ala. "He cares about guys being good and the team as a whole being good."
Here's the tidbits I gathered from Wednesday's scrimmage at Humphrey Coliseum:
- A couple more notes on IJ Ready: Ray is clearly going to have Ready challenge the basketball ball handler 94 feet. With the new emphasis on hand check fouls, it'll be interesting to see how long he'll be able to do that and not get into foul trouble.
- MSU was running a lot of ball screen and rolls for Ready tonight at Humphrey Coliseum. Wednesday night it worked it really well but his quickness showed that he may be able to get by his guy without the screen and won't need the extra defender to be brought toward him for a trap. Then again, Ray is doing the ball screen from the low block so it's possible a big forward is coming farther away from the basket. It'll be interesting to see how Ray handles that debate with his motion offense.
- Center Fallou Ndoye, who will not be eligible till the 2014-15 season due to the NCAA ruling him a partial qualifier, showed a lot more athleticism and confidence than expected in his first public action. Normally with players that have played less than five total years of basketball, they're always chasing the speed of the game but that didn't seem to be a big concern for him.
- Trivante Bloodman, Colin Borchert, Jacoby Davis and walk-on Kyle Dobbs all sat out the scrimmage with injury issues:
Davis is still not being healthy from his major knee surgery after tearing his ACL in practice before the start of last season.
Bloodman suffered a severe sprain to his right thumb and the MSU training staff had the hand placed in a cast for protective purposes. The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog spoke to MSU trainer Scotty Johnson and he said Bloodman would be fine and the junior guard did participate in drills before the scrimmage.
According to MSU spokesman Gregg Ellis, Borchert is currently suffering from back spasms but is expected to be healthy when the Bulldogs start the 2013-14 season.
- With all those injury concerns, Craig Sword was forced back into the backup point guard position against Ready and again struggled on both ends of the floor with the transition. Depth at both every position but the wings (shooting guard and small forward) could be a issue in terms of injury and possible foul trouble.
"I'm trying to get better playing at point because you saw out there tonight that I got winded," Sword said. "I've got to get back to doing more ball handling skills and things like that."
- MSU showed some 1-3-1 zone trap with the first-team unit of Ready, Sword, Thomas, Johnson and Ware. Ray, who has said in the past he would prefer not to play zone, may be forced to with the new rule changes and only nine scholarship players on the roster.
"I don't think it has anything to do with numbers and depth, I just want to play that way," Ray said. "If we had 12 scholarship guys and depth, I would play the same way."
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.
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