March 4, 2014 10:29:25 AM
STARKVILLE -- Throughout the preseason, nobody thought health would be a major problem for IJ Ready.
Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray pointed to Ready, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Little Rock Ark., as the first piece of the puzzle of turning in his attempt to rebuild the program. But Ready's inability to stay on the court has hampered that transformation. Due to various injuries, Ray and his coaches have had to ask if Ready is prepared physically before nearly every game. As a result, Ready's mental and emotional maturity has been put on hold as he attempts to get back to 100 percent.
"He's been fighting injuries all year," MSU assistant coach Chris Hollender said Monday during the Southeastern Conference media teleconference. "Before the game (against Missouri on Saturday), he felt great. He goes out there, makes a couple of plays, and then there was a certain play in the second half where he tried to catch a pass and tweaked his knee a little bit."
Ray was in Jackson for the Howell Trophy and Gillom Trophy and was unable to participate in the teleconference.
Ready played 25 minutes in MSU's 85-66 loss at Missouri even though Hollender said he was a game-time decision due to a bothersome knee injury suffered in practice. Ready, who is averaging six points and 2.8 assists this season, is listed as "day-to-day," according to Hollender. Ready was receiving treatment before Monday's practice. He will try to get back to action in time for MSU's final road game of the regular season Wednesday at Georgia.
"He's doing everything he's supposed to be doing off the floor to get better," Hollender said. "I think it's just been a frustrating, up-and-down year physically and he'll start getting better and all of a sudden boom, he'll have a little bit of a setback."
Ready has missed seven games due to injury or illness, including four due to a strained hamstring, two due to a concussion, and a game against Kentucky when he had a fever of more than 103 degrees at game time.
Not only has Ready suffered through the longest losing streak of his career as MSU continues to try and halt its 11-game SEC losing streak, but Ready also has had to deal with injuries. He hadn't missed more than one game in a season since he started playing varsity basketball as a freshman for Wes Flanigan's father at Parkview Magnet High School.
Ready is still second in 3-point percentage (38.1 percent) among SEC freshman with 35 or more attempts. His six assists against Missouri were a SEC-high and gave Ready nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Ready's ability to lead MSU's fast break has Georgia coach Mark Fox concerned about MSU (13-16, 3-13 SEC).
"They have great speed, and the one thing I think they do great as a team is take the ball down and score after a made basket," Fox said Monday. "They can beat you down the floor and lay it in. We will address that this week because of their perimeter talent."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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