October 23, 2013 10:16:26 AM
STARKVILLE -- Athleticism. Versatility. Potential.
In some way, those words describe all five of the newcomers to the 2013-14 Mississippi State women's basketball team. If pressed to assign those qualities to one or two "newbies," as MSU coach Vic Schaefer likes to call them, the best fit would be freshmen Breanna Richardson and Ketara Chapel. Richardson and Chapel are fitting picks because they likely will see playing time at small forward, the three position, or power forward, the four, depending on the other players on the floor.
Playing a dual role is fine with Chapel, a 6-foot-1 forward from Temple, Texas, who has displayed a knack for rebounding and playing defense in the first three weeks of practice.
"I am very confident," Chapel said. "I think I will be a little nervous when SEC play comes just because I am a freshman, but after the first couple of games or when I get out there I will be fine and just be able to go out there and play (and showcase all three of those skills)."
Fans will get a chance to see those skills tonight when the MSU men's and women's basketball teams take part in inter-squad scrimmages at Humphrey Coliseum that are free to the public. Following the tent setup in the Junction for the MSU football team's game against Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, fans and students can head to Humphrey Coliseum for the men's scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. The women's team will practice after the men's team.
Schaefer will get his first chance to tinker with his rotations and lineups at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, when his team plays host to Shorter in an exhibition game at The Hump. MSU will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 8 at Houston. The second-year coach hinted last week at Southeastern Conference Media Days that two or three of the newcomers could be in the starting lineup for the first game. That's why traits like athleticism, versatility, and potential are important ones for players like Chapel to bring to the table.
"I think that fits her to a T," Schaefer said of how those words describe Chapel. "She has really played well in the first three weeks of practice. "I have been really pleased with her. She is competitive, she plays awfully hard, and she has probably had just one bad day. She really has been a pleasant surprise for us knowing how hard it was early for her being away from home. She really has come a long way."
Schaefer has tried to play Chapel more at the four to help her get comfortable. He senses Chapel and Richardson are easing into their roles, but he envisions them being able to move to another position if the team gets in four trouble or suffers an injury. As much as Chapel has impressed early on, Schaefer said strength will be a key component Chapel will have to add to her game. With a wiry frame, Chapel acknowledges she has to get stronger and that she already has made strides working with strength and conditioning coach Richard Akins. Schaefer feels Chapel is a physical player even if she doesn't look like a prototypical low-post banger.
"She takes lot of charges in practice and she is not afraid of contact," Schaefer said. "She still has a long way to go as far as physical build, but she is a whole lot further along than a lot of freshmen. I think she has really embraced what coach Akins wants her to do in the weight room. I think her and (freshman center) Chinwe (Okorie) are two kids that have really changed their physique as much as anybody since they have been here."
Chapel said she could get away with using her athleticism and versatility to make up for her lack of strength. She knows now, though, her quickness will only take her so far and that she will have to get in there and battle with players who are as big or bigger than 6-1.
"I expected to get pushed around, but I have gotten better since the first couple of weeks of practice," Chapel said. "Now I know I can play with these girls and I am not going to let them push me around. I am more confident knowing I can play with these girls."
After the first week of practice, Chapel said Schaefer told her "not to be shy" and to go out and play. She said she eased into that mind-set for the first time since she was in high school, when she was one of two freshmen who were moved up to the varsity team. The transition from high school to college is a similar transition that Chapel is eager to make. She said she likes playing the four because she can use her dribbling ability and perimeter game to her advantage against taller defenders.
"She is our best rebounder from the high post," Schaefer said. "She goes to the boards and makes an effort to get the rim. That's why right now she is our starting four player."
NOTE: Students will be treated to free pizza tonight at the scrimmages. They also will learn about some of the new pregame experiences that will be unveiled at the first home game.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.