November 4, 2012 1:01:41 AM
STARKVILLE -- It has been seven months since Rick Ray was hired as Mississippi State University's 19th men's basketball coach in school history.
At 4 p.m. today, Ray will make his debut in an exhibition game against William Carey at Humphrey Coliseum. Admission is free.
HailStateTV subscribers can watch online at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive with Jim Ellis and Bart Gregory handling the broadcast.
"The guys have worked extremely hard and put forth the effort we have asked every day in practice," Ray said. "I know they are ready to play a game."
MSU returns five players from a 21-12 team that lost to the University of Massachusetts 101-96 in double overtime in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. Of the five, junior guard Jalen Steele and senior center Wendell Lewis are the only ones to see significant playing time.
Steele saw action in all 33 games and was second on the team with 70 3-pointers. He averaged 8.7 points an outing. Lewis, who led the Bulldogs with 30 blocked shots, averaged 3.8 points and four rebounds.
Outside the numbers, if there's one thing fans will notice this year is the team's toughness, Steele said.
"If you mess up, (Ray) is going to tell you," the Knoxville native said. "It's a toughness part with him. He's very tough. He doesn't want anybody to back down."
William Carey lost to Jacksonville State 75-58 on Thursday in its first preseason game. It was scheduled to play Blue Mountain on Saturday in its regular-season opener.
Against JSU, Kelvin Nixon paced William Carey with 11 points, while Jeremiah Dunnings added 10.
Led by 31st-year coach Steve Knight, William Carey was 13-18 a year ago.
MSU will open the regular season Nov. 9 at Troy University.