Article Comment 

Basketball Bulldogs continue growth in Ray's third season

 

 

STARKVILLE -- With the core of the Mississippi State basketball team set to enter its junior year together, coach Rick Ray is eager to watch the Bulldogs turn the corner. 

 

Gavin Ware, Fred Thomas and Craig Sword came in as freshmen in the same season that Ray made his senior college head coaching debut. 

 

The results have been predictable as the Bulldogs have suffered through growing pains and back-to-back losing seasons. Ray feels like his third squad will be his best yet, however, with much needed depth finally being added to the program. 

 

"We are only allowed two hours per week for eight weeks during the summer," Ray said. "So really for our guys to get better, they have to be dedicated. They have to be willing to pay the price on their own. For Fred (Thomas), Gavin (Ware) and Chicken (Sword), they have learned a lot in the past two seasons in this league. We have asked more out of them then what you would realistically expect out of freshman. To their credit, they have really worked hard during the off-season and they fully understand what it takes to be successful on this level." 

 

Ray is most pleased with the strides made by Ware. The former Starkville High standout posted seven double-doubles last season. During the off-season, he has dropped his weight to 260 pounds and greatly reduced his percentage of body fat. 

 

"We tease Gavin all of the time about his weight," Sword said. "When we are eating something good, we will make fun of him because he can't have any. To Gavin's credit, he has really stepped up and done the things you expect of a leader. You can tell it has helped his movement on the court." 

 

Ray credits Ware for changing his personal behavior for the good of the team. In between the end of the spring semester and the start of the summer semester, Ware met daily with strength coach Richard Akins to work on the proper diet and the proper training program to lose the weight. 

 

"The strength and conditioning program has gone very well this summer for the whole team," Ray said. "Trivante hasn't been able to participate during the off-season program but he has put on some weight. That has helped him a lot. For some of the new guys, it is a shock to the system when they are asked to do some of the things that we ask them to do. I am really proud of Gavin for the sacrifice he has made. He has really taken his conditioning to heart and really lowered his body fat. People will see a different player out there this season." 

 

fat. 

 

"We tease Gavin all of the time about his weight," Sword said. "When we are eating something good, we will make fun of him because he can't have any. To Gavin's credit, he has really stepped up and done the things you expect of a leader. You can tell it has helped his movement on the court." 

 

Ray credits Ware for changing his personal behavior for the good of the team. In between the end of the spring semester and the start of the summer semester, Ware met daily with strength coach Richard Akins to work on the proper diet and the proper training program to lose the weight. 

 

"The strength and conditioning program has gone very well this summer for the whole team," Ray said. "Trivante hasn't been able to participate during the off-season program but he has put on some weight. That has helped him a lot. For some of the new guys, it is a shock to the system when they are asked to do some of the things that we ask them to do. I am really proud of Gavin for the sacrifice he has made. He has really taken his conditioning to heart and really lowered his body fat. People will see a different player out there this season." 

 

The biggest buzz word on the MSU campus is depth. For stretches of his first two seasons, Ray has been down to as few as seven scholarship players. 

 

This season, the Bulldogs expect a full compliment of players, with senior Colin Borchert and transfer Jacoby Davis being the only players not returning. 

 

Fallou Ndoye, a 6-foot-11 forward, will finally be eligible after waiting for his clearance. 

 

Roquez Johnson also returns to help the Bulldogs underneath. 

 

"The thing is we have options now, so our big men do not have to play the numbers of minutes they have been playing in the past," Ray said. "You also can use the bench as a motivational factor if someone is not giving their best effort. 

 

"We have not had that option here the last couple of years." 

 

The Bulldogs will try to play more inside-out than ever before. 

 

For Thomas, arguably the team's best defensive player, the offensive options are encouraging. 

 

"We are going to be an exciting, fast-paced team," Thomas said. "We finally have some pieces so it's not like one or two players have to do everything." 

 

Sword led the team by averaging 13.7 points per game last season. Ray will be using him at both a 2-guard and point guard. 

 

"For him to play on the next level, he will have to do it as a point guard," Ray said. "So we will give him a chance to play there some." 

 

Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott. 

 

 

 

printer friendly version | back to top

 

 

 

Blogs

 

MSU Sports Blog

 

Rob Hardy on Books

 

High School Sports Blog

 

Want to blog on cdispatch.com?

 

 

 

Follow Us:

Follow Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter

Follow Us via Instagram

Follow Us via Email