Mississippi State’s seniors pose for photos following their NCAA Tournament win over Clemson on March 24 in their final home appearance at Humphrey Coliseum: From left, Anriel Howard, Jordan Danberry, Teaira McCowan, and Jazzmun Holmes, right, along with junior Zion Campbell, second from right. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
April 2, 2019 11:39:29 AM
Mississippi State women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer sat stoically.
Addressing the media following MSU's 88-84 Elite Eight loss Sunday to No. 2 seed Oregon, Schaefer was flanked by his four-person senior class.
To his left was graduate student Anriel Howard and Jazzmun Holmes -- an instant-impact transfer along with a point guard Schaefer has called the best in the nation this season.
On his right sat seniors Jordan Danberry and Teaira McCowan -- a selfless guard whose five-star pedigree never amounted to an ego and a 6-foot-7 center who was selected as Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
Combined, the four players combined for 55.9 points, 27.7 rebounds and 11.5 assists per game in 2018-19.
They leave MSU as the winningest senior class in program history with 132 victories.
"For us, my staff, that team in there is hurting," Schaefer said. "I am just really proud of them. I told them, they've impacted a community and a university unlike anything I've ever seen."
It's difficult to overstate the impact of this year's senior class.
Take Howard, for instance. A three-year player at Texas A&M, she sought a new start in a place she could be an offensive focal point and compete for a national championship.
While she set the career rebounding mark for the Aggies, Howard's national claim to fame in College Station was being selected to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016.
At MSU, the Atlanta native soared to new heights -- averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as the Robin to McCowan's Batman on the offensive end.
Danberry played third fiddle to Howard and McCowan on a team that averaged 86.2 points per game. After transferring from Arkansas in December 2016, Danberry thrived in a complementary scoring role this year -- notching 13.1 points per night.
"For us, really thankful for Anriel and Jordan, who transferred to us," Schaefer said. "Could have gone anywhere. Believed in our program. Wanted to be a part of it. Trusted us."
Then there is Holmes. A silent assassin, the 5-8 point guard is subdued on the court. Yet her innate ability to find open shooters and feed McCowan in the post while surrounded by two or three defenders at a time was second-to-none.
"I mean, she has just continued to develop and develop and develop," Schaefer said. "I've never seen a point guard in four years develop as much as she has."
And finally, there's McCowan. Perhaps the most dominant post player since Brittney Griner graced the floor at Baylor, McCowan dominated opponents with her towering frame and immense strength on the block.
A potential first-round pick in this year's WNBA draft, McCowan will go down as one of the most decorated MSU players of all time after totaling 1,942 points and 1,502 rebounds during her four years in Starkville.
The Bulldogs will certainly miss the presence of Howard, Holmes, Danberry and McCowan. But Schaefer is no stranger to rebuilds.
Following the 2018 Final Four, he was tasked with replacing four starters. Instead of falling back to earth, MSU thrived -- reaching its third-straight Elite Eight.
The ending to MSU's senior foursome's time in the maroon and white was soured by the end result of Sunday's game.
"We could all go through life and not have the opportunity nor the impact that these kids have had on a place like Mississippi State," Schaefer said. "It is a very special place. The impact that these kids have had, like I said, it's unlike anything I've seen."
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.
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