January 15, 2013 11:28:58 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University guard Craig Sword wasn't aware Monday the Southeastern Conference had named him Freshman of the Week until he received a text message from team spokesperson Gregg Ellis.
There's a good chance Sword was too worried about the protective boot on his left foot and making it to class and the treatment sessions with MSU trainer Scotty Johnson.
Sword earned the honor in part by scoring 16 points, grabbing four rebounds, and making two steals Saturday in a 72-61 victory against the University of Georgia. He said he played that game on a left ankle "he couldn't even feel" because of the tape and ankle brace he was wearing.
MSU coach Rick Ray said Monday that Sword didn't practice the two days before the game at Georgia and that he would be "limited" this week leading up to Wednesday night's game against the University of Alabama (8 p.m., CSS) at Humphrey Coliseum.
"They're looking OK without me because we're used to practicing with just eight players anyway," Sword said.
Ray anticipates Sword, who is averaging 9.6 points per game and is fifth in the SEC in steals with two a game, will play against Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC). The Bulldogs need his dribble penetration to help their effectiveness on offense. MSU (7-7, 2-0) is shooting 42.7 percent from the field in its first two conference games of the season.
"To have Craig Sword be able to play that basketball game on a sprained ankle like he did shows his toughness," Ray said Monday. "We had no indication of how he would be able to play, or if he would be able to play due to the ankle. I think this it's a phenomenal thing for Craig to come in and fight like that and play for our team.
Not just play, but play well."
Sword, a four-star prospect from Montgomery (Ala.) Carver High School, originally committed to former MSU coach Rick Stansbury. He reassured MSU fans he wouldn't ask for his release as soon as Rick Ray was hired nearly a year after he made his verbal commitment.
MSU's variety of injuries and lack of depth have forced Sword to play both guard positions. He has had his ups and downs handling the transition, going 1-for-18 from 3-point range in his first nine games. He had six games with five turnovers or more in that span. In the past four games, Sword has shot 50 percent or better from the field and earned at least two steals.
"I think I've done a wonderful job of just letting the game come to me instead of forcing it anymore," Sword said. "As things begin to slow down for me and Jalen (Steele) has come back, our offense will continue to get better."