August 5, 2013 11:56:53 PM
STARKVILLE -- The calendar says Vic Schaefer and the Mississippi State University women's basketball team have a little more than two months before the 2013-14 season begins.
But Schaefer and coaching staff were at work this summer laying the foundation for what the Bulldogs will build in the coming years. The next step in that process will come next month when MSU will play host to some of the recruits it hopes to sign as part of the Class of 2014. Coming off a 7-for-7 effort in its first recruiting class, Schaefer knows a strong second haul will keep the Bulldogs going in the right direction.
"We're going against the University ofs of the world," Schaefer said. "We're butting heads with some great programs and some Hall of Fame coaches, so there is going to be some heartache with that. Last year, we went 7-for-7. That just doesn't happen. I don't expect that to happen with this class, or any class. That is not something you expect, but that goes to the credibility of our staff, the credibility of Mississippi State, and the facilities we have. I think that is what will continue to go on because when people get here and see our facilities and see what a beautiful campus we have, it really is an unknown gym."
MSU has a load of talent in the state of Mississippi it hopes to attract. Players like Gatorade State Player of the Year Christa Reed, of Bay High School, and Victoria Vivians, of Scott Central High, are nationally ranked players in nearly every recruiting service. Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report rates Vivians, a 6-foot-1 small forward, the No. 18 player in the country, while Reed, a 5-11 shooting guard, is No. 92. Shandricka Sessom, a 5-10 shooting guard from Byhalia High, is the other player from Mississippi ranked in the top 200 (No. 187). Factor in the depth of talent in the state of Alabama, which includes players like Shakayla Thomas, a 5-11 forward Sylacauga High, who is ranked No. 13 by Olson, and it's easy to understand why a number of the nation's top programs are spending a lot of time recruiting in Mississippi and in Alabama.
The latest evaluation period for college coaches ended July 29. With a quiet period set through Sept. 8, Schaefer and his coaches will spend the next month preparing for the start of the preseason and lining up visits by recruits. Some of those visits could come from Sept. 9-29, the next NCAA-mandated contact period. An evaluation period from Sept. 27-29 follows.
The MSU football team will play host to Troy University Sept. 21. It also will play host to LSU (Oct. 5), Bowling Green University (Oct. 12), and the University of Kentucky (Oct. 24) in some possible target dates for recruits to visit the school to experience the atmosphere on game day at a soon-to-be-expanded Davis Wade Stadium.
"The one thing people know about us is we are winners and we know how to develop kids," Schaefer said. "We have had several kids go on and play at the next level. I think right now there is certainly opportunity, but great players want to play with great players. The kids we are recruiting have a great understanding they can't do it by themselves. Our first class is here. We have to stack that class with another class. That is how you get it turned and going in the right direction. We established that foundation with a really good class last year. This 2014 class has a chance to really make an impact for years to come, and set the table for a great run. That is where is exciting when we talk to these potential student-athletes. They understand that, and they're excited about not just the players we already have here, but the players we are recruiting."
Schaefer and his staff already have made headway for the Class of 2014. Blair Schaefer, the daughter of Vic Schaefer, a point guard at Starkville High, and Morgan William, a 5-4 point guard from Shades Valley (Ala.) High, already have given verbal commitments to play basketball at MSU. Verbal commitments are non-binding, and college coaches can't comment about a player until she signs a National Letter of Intent.
MSU landed seven players for the Class of 2013 who helped the program earn a No. 35 ranking in Olson's rankings. The final number likely will change after former New Albany High School standout Jazmine Spears failed to qualify academically at MSU and will attend Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College this school year.
Spears, a three-time selection to The Clarion-Ledger's All-State team, gave a verbal commitment to play basketball at MSU in late March. She signed a National Letter of Intent on April 17, but the 5-foot-11 forward who averaged 30.6 points, 15.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.7 blocked shots per game for New Albany High last season won't join 6-5 center Chinwe Okorie, of Nigeria, Breanna Richardson, a 6-2 forward from the state of Georgia, Ketara Chapel, a 6-1 forward from Texas, Dominique Dillingham, a 5-8 guard from Texas, Kiki Patterson, a 5-9 guard from Columbus High, and Savannah Carter, a 5-9 guard from Trinity Valley C.C., this season.
Schaefer declined to comment about Spears, who was rated No. 177 by Olson. Spears finished her career with 3,277 points and 2,149 rebounds. She was a first team All-State pick as a sophomore and as a senior and a second-team pick as a junior. Her next step will be with Trinity Valley C.C. coach Elena Lovato's squad that will try to defend its 2013 junior college national title.
Schaefer did say, though, that he noticed the progress his program had made from the first to the second recruiting class. Even though MSU went 13-17 last season, the program showed signs of becoming the defensive stalwart Schaefer envisions, particularly in a late-season victory against nationally ranked University of Georgia at Humphrey Coliseum. He knows his staff has earned respect across the nation, and that his program will continue to do things the right way to help transform MSU into a contender in the Southeastern Conference.
"Because of the success we have had as coaches, as former players, with (assistant coach) Aqua (Franklin), I think that all sets the table for an opportunity," Schaefer said. "We have been in a lot of gyms all across the country in the last month, and we have a list. We have two commitments and if we can get two more I think we will be in great shape."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.