April 18, 2013 9:41:33 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Wednesday was another in a string of recent good days for Vic Schaefer and the Mississippi State University women's basketball program.
Aside from a temporary issue with the fax machine in the team's office in Mize Pavilion, everything went smoothly for MSU to receive a fax from Jazmine Spears that officially made her Bulldog. Earlier in the morning, the New Albany High School senior standout signed a National Letter of Intent at the school on the first day of the spring signing period. Her signing closed a recruitment that landed Schaefer and his staff the sixth addition to the program for the 2013-14 season.
"She is a kid who has been coached by a great coach here in the state of Mississippi in John Stroud," Schaefer said. "I think the big thing with her is if you score 3,200 points in your high school career you have a pretty good offensive attitude, and that is something we desperately need. I think we have to improve our skill set, and I think her skill set is very, very good. She is a great passer, she can shoot it and stretch you defensively. She has a mental attitude about her and an approach that we don't have, and she plays a position (the four, power forward) we don't have."
This past season, Spears earned All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger for the third-straight year. She paced Stroud's New Albany High squad to a 19-7 record by averaging 30.6 points, 15.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.7 blocked shots per game. She finished her career with 3,277 points and 2,149 rebounds. She earned second-team All-State honors as a junior and first-team accolades as a sophomore.
"I'm very excited to become a Bulldog. I'm ready to experience the college life and play against some really good players," Spears said. "Coach Schaefer and the other coaches welcomed me. The way they treated me, they made it feel like home."
Spears' signing comes on the heels of news that Trinity Valley Community College sophomore guard Savannah Carter has given a verbal commitment to MSU. TVCC coach Elena Lovato said earlier this week that Carter plans to sign a National Letter of Intent at 6 p.m. Sunday. The addition of Carter, a 5-foot-9 guard, would give MSU a class that already includes Ketara Chapel, Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, Breanna Richardson, and Kiki Patterson, of Columbus High.
Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report rated MSU's current signing class No. 45 nationally, and ninth in the Southeastern Conference. Olson, a former college basketball coach who runs the recruiting service, said the addition of Carter could help MSU climb into the high 30s and move past at least one or two SEC teams.
"They have seven players coming in when they had only 10 or 11, so they have almost completely remade their team in one year," Olson said. "Jazmine Spears is a heck of a player. They also have signed a couple of diamonds in the rough."
Olson said MSU has covered the whole gamut of a lineup in its class and has added quality depth. He said Schaefer's initial signing class sets the table for the program to attract even better classes in the years to come.
Schaefer, who can't comment about Carter until he receives her NLI, was excited to talk about Spears because she is someone who wants to be a Bulldogs. He hopes to find more players like that and he and his staff try to build on a first season that saw the team go 13-17.
"The enthusiasm and the attitude of these freshmen, I love it," Schaefer said. "I think it is what we need."
Schaefer said the challenge next season will be to have the returning player help the newcomers work through the growing pains in the toughest league in the nation. Setting that example is just one thing he said he and assistant coaches will work on in the offseason. In addition to hitting the recruiting trail, Schaefer said he wants to work hard to increase the program's number of season ticket holders to 2,000. He has confidence in his ability to do that because he loves where the program is, where it is heading, and how fast it is getting there. He also loves his staff's work ethic and presence and feels they will help bring more hard-nosed, defensive-minded players into the fold.
"When your product is good, it is easy to sell a good product," Schaefer said. "I think our team will be even more fun to watch next year. I heard so many positive things about how hard everybody thought we played, and some days I agreed and days I didn't. I think that is becoming our moniker, and that is what we're hanging our hat on, and that is what I want.
"I love the direction we're going. I think (MSU Director of Athletics) Scott (Stricklin) likes the direction we're going. I think he has a great understanding of what it takes for the total program, so I think that is a big part of developing and building a program.
" ... HailStateHoops is what we're trying to make our moniker. We have some graphics up now (outside the women's basketball office in Mize Pavilion), so our graphics are starting to come together. We have a beautiful facility, but we have a lot of bare walls. It is up to us to develop the graphics for those walls, and who is going to develop those graphics? Our program, our players, our team. ... We're going to develop our identity, and that's what's going to be on these walls with our graphics. This incoming freshman class, if they do their jobs, that's who you will see when you walk up and down the hall, just like you see A'Quonesia Franklin at Texas A&M. Those walls were bare for many years, but when we did put up graphics, Aqua and her class is the class that got us turned, took us to the Elite Eight, and that is who you see when you walk up and down those hallways."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.