June 15, 2013 10:53:58 PM
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer is excited that the indoctrination process has started.
The start of the 2013-14 season is still about four months away, but the Mississippi State University women's basketball coach and his coaching staff aren't waiting to introduce their new players to a more demanding set of expectations.
Incoming freshmen Dominique Dillingham, an All-State player from Texas, Chinwe Okorie, a center from Stoneleigh-Burnham (Mass.) School, Breanna Richardson, an All-State player from Georgia, and Kiki Patterson, an All-State player from Columbus High, are enrolled at MSU for the first session of summer school. This year, the NCAA allows women's basketball coaches to work with their players for eight hours a week -- including two on the court. The students have to be enrolled in summer school or have met certain academic standards. Last year, men's basketball coaches had the same opportunity for the first time.
Two hours may not be a lot, but Schaefer said any chance to work with players is something he is going to use wisely.
"I think they are learning a level of intensity they have probably never been a part of," Schaefer said. "That is fun to see."
Schaefer said Ketara Chapel, an All-State player from Texas, and Savannah Carter, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, will be in Starkville for the second summer session. He also hopes to get New Albany High standout Jazmine Spears enrolled for the second summer session.
Schaefer said the summer sessions give students a head start on their studies that is invaluable. For players like Dillingham, it means little or no rest between the end of her senior year in high school to the start of her freshman year in college. Schaefer said Dillingham literally "hit the ground running" because she graduated June 7, packed June 8, traveled June 9, and went to class at MSU on Monday. He said many of the other high school seniors -- aside from Patterson -- were in similar situations.
"I think for us it is real important because it gives them a chance to see us in a competitive atmosphere on the practice floor so come October or November there is not a shock factor," Schaefer said. "It gives us a familiarity and an ability to be comfortable knowing who we have."
Schaefer said the four players on campus have delivered like he thought they would, and that he expects the class to add a several new dimensions to the Bulldogs' arsenal.
MSU went 4-4 in the final two months of the regular season to build momentum. The finish included a 50-38 victory against then-No. 11 University of Georgia on Feb. 28. Unfortunately, MSU lost its regular-season finale at Auburn University and then lost to the University of Alabama in the first round of the Southeastern Conference to cap a 13-17 season (5-11 in the SEC).
In April, MSU added to its recruiting class with the signing of Carter from TVCC's national championship team. Carter averaged 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while TVCC to a 36-1 record and the NJCAA Division I national title. Carter and Spears, a three-time All-State player, helped MSU's recruiting class move up to No. 35 in rankings by the Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
Richardson, who is No. 77 in Olson's individual rankings for the Class of 2013, is the highest-rated player in MSU's incoming class. Carter is the 27th-best junior college player, according to Olson.
Coming off a solid first recruiting class, Schaefer and his coaches have been busy in the "offseason." MSU played host to an Elite Camp on June 8-9 and a Day Camp on June 10-13. On Friday, the Bulldogs held their first Shoot Out Camp, which provided participating teams like ones representing Columbus High, Starkville High, and Starkville Academy, with three games. Session two of the Shoot Out Camp was Saturday.
MSU will hold an Individual Camp today through Wednesday.
Following a busy month of June, things will pick up in July, as college coaches will use the July 6-12 evaluation period to identify recruits and to keep track of ones they already have targeted as signees. With four of the newcomers already getting to know a new way of doing things, Schaefer is confident he and his coaches can build on their first season and their recruiting success to take MSU even higher.
"Any success you have in December of January, I think it starts in the summertime," Schaefer said. "It gives your kids a chance to find out real quick who your leaders might be, who has leadership qualities, because we are only allowed to be there two hours a week from a coaching on the floor standpoint. Good teams are made in the summer. No doubt about it. Good players are made in the summer when nobody is watching."
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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