With the start of basketball season a little over a month away, both Mississippi State University basketball programs discussed team development and expectations during a preseason conference Oct. 3.
MSU women’s head coach Vic Schaefer and Jordan Danberry, a graduate student guard from Conway, Arkansas, were the first to meet with the media, according to a press release from MSU Athletics. Danberry coming back to the team was a surprise as she was granted an extra year by the NCAA.
“I was in complete shock when I was given the news,” Danberry said. “He [Schaefer] asked me if I still wanted to do it, and I told him that I did.”
Focusing on the future, the Bulldogs already have one practice under their belt and plan to move full steam ahead after fall break. Schaefer expects to run practice six days a week.
“They will get Friday, Saturday and Sunday off again this year,” Schaefer said, “And once they come back, we are going to be in it to win it from that point.”
After losing center Teaira McCowan and guard Jazzmun Holmes upon their graduation, one question remains: Who is going to step up and fill in those key areas? With Danberry back, she is expected to reprise her role as an off-guard and continue to be a key offensive player, but she will not be limited to the point guard position.
Replacing such an essential component like a point guard is an important decision to make, Schaefer said there is one player that could solidify the slot, and that is Myah Taylor, a sophomore guard from Olive Branch.
“Myah is probably my best help-side defender and maybe one of our better on-ball defenders,” Schaefer said. “Our job is to help her become the overall player she needs to become; just like with every player we have.”
With a seasoned roster including talented freshman, the lineup possibilities leave the roster open for many options and matchups to change it, but Schaefer says it is still too early to make final decisions.
Last season, the Men's Basketball team appeared in their 11th NCAA Tournament and broke a 10-year drought. The Bulldogs also lost three of their best shooters to the NBA draft and was without Nick Weatherspoon, a junior guard from Canton, for the last 10 games of season due to suspension.
Head coach Ben Howland said Tyson Carter, a senior guard from Starkville, and Elias King, a freshman Forward from Suwanee, Georgia, can fill in the gaps from the missing pieces while Weatherspoon looks to get back in the rhythm of playing.
“Elias is one of our best shooters on the team,” Howland said. “We lost three very good shooters in Q [Quinndary Weatherspoon], Aric [Holman] and Lamar [Peters], out three best, three-point shooters. You talk about guys that could really shoot other than Tyson [Carter], it was those three."
One Bulldog from this squad had a busy summer and made a name for himself during the offseason. Reggie Perry, a sophomore forward from Thomasville, Georgia, led the USA 19-and-under team to a gold medal and received the most valuable player award for his performance during the tournament.
Looking to the upcoming season, Perry is expected to be an impact player with his very physical and tough play style. He has even been dubbed as the preseason SEC Player of the Year on a few media outlets.
Another returning player who is said to have a breakout year is Robert Woodard II, a sophomore guard from Columbus. Woodard is a double threat as a perimeter player and uses his size to rebound as well as to score when needed. He also has taken the role as one of the team’s leaders and has shown great leadership.
“I think Robert Woodard [II] had and unbelievable summer," Howland said. “Robert has really improved his outside jump shot. I think he’s really grown offensively as a permanent player from when he first arrived a year ago to where he’s right now.”
With the season a month away, both teams are ready and equipped for their new campaigns. The women’s team will hold an exhibition game Monday, Nov. 4 against Lubbock Christian at the Humphrey Coliseum at 7 p.m., the men’s team will hold an exhibition game the day after against Florida International University at the Humphrey Coliseum at 7 p.m.