October 13, 2013 1:24:42 AM
STARKVILLE -- It's fitting Dominique Dillingham mentions three things when asked what role she feels she will play on the 2013-14 Mississippi State women's basketball team.
While playing defense and bringing toughness and energy to the team very well may be some of the things second-year head coach Vic Schaefer expects from Dillingham, the 5-foot-8 freshman from Spring, Texas, her resume suggests she has the ability to do plenty of other things.
"If you look at me, you think defense first, but I can score the ball as well," Dillingham said. "I like defense better, but I don't mind scoring."
Last season, Dillingham averaged 17.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.9 steals per game as a senior at Klein Collins High School. Entering her final prep season, the Premier Basketball Report, a national scouting service, ranked Dillingham the 20th-best player in the state of Texas in the Class of 2013.
With gaudy numbers like that, it's not surprising Dillingham will have a chance to earn playing time at several positions. Her versatility mirrors the multiple positions newcomers Savannah Carter, Breanna Richardson, Chinwe Okorie, and Ketara Chapel can play, too, which has created plenty of competition for playing time early on at MSU practices.
Dillingham and the Bulldogs will get their first chance to showcase their skills at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 when they play host to Shorter in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will open its season at 5 p.m. Nov. 8 against Houston. It will play host to Jackson State at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in its home opener.
"My personality fits really good because my game is defense and they love defense, too," Dillingham said. "I come in and I already know what they want. I play hard and I can defend multiple positions."
While there is still time for players to make an impression on the coaches, Schaefer likes the fact Dillingham said defense as her first answer. Nicknamed "The Secretary of Defense" for the role he played as an assistant and as an associate head coach at Arkansas and Texas A&M under Gary Blair, Schaefer said Dillingham is versatile enough to guard a point guard, a two guard, a small forward, and a power forward. He said her ability to play in several spots fits well with the other newcomers and has added significant depth to the Bulldogs.
"Hopefully she doesn't have to guard any four players (power forwards) in the SEC because physically that might not be a good thing, but one of the reasons I recruited her is the intangibles she brings to the table -- her toughness, her competitiveness," Schaefer said. "She is a winner. She has a tremendous presence on the floor. I don't think she is easily rattled. While I am excited about her defensively, she is making shots at the two (shooting guard). That is what we have got to have. I think her ability and her versatility to swing from the two to the three (small forward) is going to add a dimension to our team and give us some flexibility."
Dillingham's shooting ability might be the reason junior guard Kendra Grant said "shooter" as one of the first words to describe one of the newcomers. Grant, who is known for her perimeter shooting, was second on the team in scoring last season at points per game. She also started all 30 games, so she knows what it takes to compete every game in the SEC. She feels Dillingham will be able to make her mark on both ends of the floor.
"She can knock it down from wherever," Grant said. "Not only that, she can play one, two, and three, so at practice coach switches us all up and sees how we all look out there. She just looks comfortable out there. I really like that about her. She doesn't get too antsy about stuff. Her defense is awesome. She always has energy there, and coach (Schaefer) loves that. I am excited about her years she has here."
Grant laughed when she was told Dillingham said her stroke doesn't hers. That's fine because Grant also knows MSU will need additional scoring weapons if it is going to improve on its ppg. average from last season. That mark was last in the 14-team SEC.
If Schaefer has his way, MSU will use its defense to pump that number up. He also hopes Dillingham and the other four newcomers can add more juice to an offense to help the Bulldogs to improve on a 13-17 finish (4-12 in the SEC).
Dillingham said the adjustment has been harder than she expected. She said she is adjusting to the conditioning and the speed of things entering the second week of workouts. She also feels comfortable in a system where defense is a top priority. Her plan is to do that and plenty more to make an impact.
"I think we are definitely going to be a different team," Dillingham said. "Every game we are going to get after it, and every game we will have a chance. We just have to put it all together. I definitely think we have a chance to win most of our games."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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