Bulldog basketball looks forward to new season start date

Ben Howland, head coach of Mississippi State University’s men’s basketball team, leads his Bulldogs by instructing them from the sidelines during a game in the 2019-2020 season between the Mississippi State University Bulldogs and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Mississippi State University men and women's basketball season has been set to begin on Nov. 25, according to the NCAA's announcement earlier this week.

In the release, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt spoke on the focus of player health and safety being the reasoning behind delaying the season from the originally planned Nov. 10 start date.

"The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season," Gavitt said. "It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships."

Hail State Productions released recordings from press conferences with both the women's basketball head coach, Nikki McCray-Penson, and the men's basketball head coach, Ben Howland. With the new season start date announced, they were both able to share what they had been working on during the off-season and their anticipations of the upcoming season.

McCray-Penson, in her interview, shared how her team has been building relationships, setting goals for the season and what some of their strategy is for the season.

"I feel like this team is really getting closer together and building a bond and a trust amongst each other which is translating on the court," McCray-Penson said.

She also shared the team wants to play a fast game this year, so as they work on playing faster on the court, they are also focusing on fundamentals to make sure they can handle the ball while moving quicker on the court. The head coach also harped on the subject of keeping her team in shape to be able to accomplish the speed they are looking for on the court this season.

"When you're playing fast, you've got to be able to knock down shots, so really making sure that our kids understand that when we get off the bus, we've got to be a threat to score the basketball," McCray-Penson said.

In his meeting with the media, Head Coach Ben Howland talked about his anticipations for the season with the men's basketball team as well as players he sees as key for the upcoming season. He said he agreed with the NCAA's decision to push the season start date back the extra 15 days.

"I think it's very prudent what they did," Howland said. "I think it's smart because 75% of all schools, the students — the normal students — will be gone, and it kind of forms a safer environment for your players moving forward."

Howland touched on how his lineup is adapting to the gaps left on the court. He was asked about his intentions to fill the wing position left by Robert Woodard II and responded by saying the team will be playing small and fast with some anticipated difficulty with matching size on the court. He said he would place D.J. Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar and Devion Smith around the perimeter if they were to start right now.

"I think we also have a lot of advantages, that's a very quick, explosive lineup with those three guys on the perimeter," Howland said.

Both of the Bulldog basketball teams will begin practice next month and will start their seasons on Nov. 25. Coach Howland shared his excitement for the upcoming season during the media meeting.

"I'm just excited for basketball again," Howland said. "It was just devastating and heartbreaking to finish our season the way it finished last year, without a real finish."

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