July 3, 2013 11:30:56 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- As sweat poured down the face of his face, Mississippi State center Gavin Ware said his goal was to get himself in the best shape of his life.
For someone who entered the Mississippi State University men's basketball team's training camp at 290 pounds, Ware's statement this month showed he has learned he needs to be in shape before the start of the season to become the quality front-court player the Bulldogs need.
"Gavin is working harder than he ever has in his entire life, and he's not having to be coached or pushed to do it," MSU men's basketball trainer Richard Atkins said. "He got on the treadmill for an hour after the workout, and he wouldn't have done that last year. It takes a year for freshman to understand how their bodies work and how to get better."
Members of the MSU coaching and training staff have said Ware weighs 270-275 pounds and that he's five to eight pounds away from reaching his target weight for the 2013-14 season.
"There will be no more coming into camp at 290 pounds like I did last year," Ware said. "In order to battle down low in the block in this league, I'm going to have to get in top condition and get stronger."
Ware and guard Craig Sword were named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team last season. A year ago, Ware came into camp carrying extra weight and worked himself into better shape during the season. The former Starkville High School standout averaged 8.4 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds. His rebounding total was 12th in the SEC, and third among all freshmen.
As MSU starts its four-player workouts this summer, the one problem Ware has is he doesn't have a teammate to compete against in the post. With Wendell Lewis still recovering from his season-end injury, Ware is working against MSU assistant coaches Chris Hollender and George Brooks.
"I think coach Hollender is tougher to score on because he's a little bit younger than coach Brooks, but I can't wait to get Wendell back in camp so we can make each other better," Ware said.
IJ is Ready
IJ Ready is doing everything he can to make sure he makes an impact in his first season.
Ready, a four-star point guard from Little Rock, Ark., is MSU's only freshman attending summer school at MSU and going through offseason workouts. He hopes his early arrival in Starkville will help him get to know his teammates so he can earn more playing time at point guard.
"IJ is a spectacular talent and already looks impressive," MSU forward Colin Borchert said. "His speed and control of the ball is something you can notice while playing pick-up."
Ready, a 5-foot-11 guard, was coached in high school by Al Flanigan, the father of MSU assistant Wes Flanigan.
"A lot of people missed IJ because of his size," Flanigan said. "I think he is a guy that can play right away. He is hard nosed and always gives it everything he has. I.J is just a great person on and off the court."
MSU's veteran players have enjoyed Ready's uptempo style of play.
"I start to understand that getting up and going on the break is something I'm going to have to get used to real quick if I'm going to play with IJ," Ware said. "Normally freshmen have to adjust to us, but we're already adjusting to how he wants to play because it's so much more enjoyable."
Ready also received scholarship offers from the University of Alabama, the University of Nebraska, the University of Oregon, Texas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
"He's just a flat-out winner," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "I.J has a competitive fire and spirit that will really help our team next year, and for years to come. I am excited about the talent and intangibles he will provide. Our team will love playing with him because he is a consummate play-maker.