November 14, 2018 10:16:15 PM
STARKVILLE -- Ben Howland two priorities in recruiting his Class of 2019: perimeter help and hard workers. He found three that fit the bill.
Mississippi State men's basketball announced three signees in its 2019 class -- Elias King, Iverson Molinar and Devin Butts -- that Howland expects to provide that help going forward. MSU (2-0) doesn't need that help now, with a senior and a junior in the starting lineup when it hosts Long Beach State (1-2) 8 p.m. Friday (SEC Network), but Howland believes the incoming group can be the face of the program in years to come.
"All these kids have 3-point range from day one," Howland said. "I'm really pleased with the three recruits we bring in this year and I'm excited for all of them, I think they'll have great careers at Mississippi State.
"We wanted to get our perimeter shored up because right now we have six scholarship guys and you would normally want to have more than that. We're going to have some depth again and some good competition."
The diamond in the rough of the group is Molinar, the guard from Veritas Prep in Garden Grove, California. 247Sports has him as a three-star and ranked outside of the top 30 in his own state and outside of the top 50 nationally at his position; Howland doesn't care.
Howland has been down this road with Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison in his days at UCLA -- two lesser-touted prospects in high school that are now making millions in the NBA.
"They make a lot of mistakes, the recruiting services," Howland said. "There's a reason Arizona had (Molinar) slated to visit: there's a lot of people that wanted to see him. They didn't show him that early love like we did, and that's a credit to (assistant coach) Korey (McCray), getting in there early and impressing him with how much we want him. Obviously I followed suit, especially after seeing him in person.
"Darren Collison was in a camp going into his senior year where he didn't make the top 75 at the Adidas camp; he's making $10 million a year. I trust our judgement more than anything else."
Howland was sold on Molinar when he saw him at Peach Jam, a nationally renowned AAU event in Georgia. Molinar shot 63 percent from the field and took his team to the finals.
The other two signees don't come with the same under-recruited reputation.
Butts and King are both among the best in the state of Georgia, King rated as the fourth-best prospect in the state and Butts as the 18th; King can swing between the frontcourt and the backcourt at 6-foot-7, 185 pounds, while Butts is more of a true guard at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds.
Howland said Butts is a true shooter reminiscent of current Bulldog Tyson Carter.
"He's very athletic, comes from a good basketball family in that his dad was a very good player at Texas Tech," Howland said. "Devin is a bright kid, pre-engineering student. They were very impressed by the academics here at Mississippi State, especially our engineering department, very grateful to them for giving them the love and care they were shown over there at engineering. They did a great job. That's a real strength of this university."
Howland sees in King the skillset to move through several positions, able to ball handle and pass well enough to take some time at point guard if needed.
What excites Howland the most about King is the attribute he shares with his fellow soon-to-be Bulldogs.
"This kid Elias is an absolute gym rat, he lives in the gym," Howland said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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