January 4, 2014 10:45:13 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said on Twitter Saturday afternoon he "felt weird" not being a part of the opening conference weekend for most schools but the other half of his brain is probably is thankful.
After the 75-63 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore Thursday, Ray admitted to still being unsure how he and his staff will work their player rotation following the announced transfer of wing player Dre Applewhite.
With Applewhite gone from the program, MSU turned back to Fred Thomas as the starting small forward Thursday but it was clear MSU will be forced to use a four-guard lineup in the long term.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do with the rotations now," Ray said. "I don't know if it's going to be a combination of Jacoby (Davis) or Tyson (Cunningham). I'm even going to give (walk-on) guard Tevin (Moore) a look because he's been very good for us in practice."
Ray announced Monday Applewhite, a redshirt freshman guard from Memphis, has decided to transfer to another school and will not participate for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
Applewhite had drawn starts in the last six games over sophomore Fred Thomas and had averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game in 12 games. No specific were given to the decision Applewhite made following the fall semester of the 2013-14 academic year.
Without the services of Applewhite, MSU will be down to eight active scholarship players for the remainder of the season including their Southeastern Conference opener at No. 15 Kentucky on Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network). The Bulldogs are 5-45 all-time at Rupp Arena with their only win in 15 years coming in 2009.
"It's different competing in practice and competing in games, especially now that we're starting SEC play. We've got a good feel of what Tyson can do and he'll always be part of the rotation," Ray said. "Now I want to see what Jacoby and Tevin can do."
Two options Ray said were not part of the discussion are the removing of the redshirt for transfer forward Travis Daniels and the roster activation of MSU football player De'Runnya Wilson. Daniels, who joined the MSU program after having academic eligibility issues while trying to transfer from Shelton State this summer.
"Travis Daniels will have only two years of eligibility left here so the last thing I want to do is be unfair to my players because we're in a emergency situation," Ray said. "Nothing has changed with him in that regard."
Ray, who was a frequent guest at MSU's fall camp practices, said Thursday he has not had a conversation with Wilson about his future on the basketball court after he was named Mr. Basketball honors in Alabama last year at Wenonah High School in Birmingham. He averaged 18.4 points and 15.8 rebounds as a senior.
"There hasn't been any discussion (since football season ended)," Ray said. "I think, if anything, he needs a break and try to get his body ready and healed. I haven't talked to (Wilson) or Coach (Dan) Mullen about it. I'm sure that time will come but it's not something that I'm pressing about because I want to be fair to 'Bear' on that."
As a backup at wide receiver, Wilson concluded his first season on the gridiron with 26 catches for 351 yards and three touchdowns.
"When football ends and hopefully in January, sometime after we're done we'll make the transition with him getting ready to go into basketball and do that," MSU football coach Dan Mullen said on Nov. 11. "Rick and I have a real good relationship so it's let's make the best way that we can get transitions to work and make sure we're taking care of De'Runnya, (to) both of us is the most important thing. And how to get the transition to basketball."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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