The Bulldogs of last season carried their baggage publicly. This was known from the very beginning. But as has been noted over and over, this is a new team. Man is it a new team. Only three scholarship players return from last years underachieving bunch that had a potential to be a Sweet 16 team at the very worst. Of those three, only one is returning from the 2011 backcourt.
Jalen Steele burst on to the scene as a freshman as a pure sharp shooter. But towards the end of the season, Steele went down with a knee injury and the Bulldogs felt his absence from the bench immediately. Last year he made a giant leap forward. Steele played in every ball game starting half of the contest and averaged nearly nine points. He showed just how out of his mind he can get from long range in a come-from-behind win at Vanderbilt and the loss in the SEC tournament against Georgia and his ability to stay out of the spotlight off the court has made him the leader and staple in a Rick Ray type ball club.
I think Steele is your prototypical two, but with the preseason loss of freshman point guard, Jacoby Davis, he's mentioned running point a little bit in the off season just in case he is needed.
The man that is most likely taking over the point is prep schooler, Trivante Bloodman. Bloodman was brought in to give the Bulldogs a little bit of depth at the point behind talented freshman Davis, but things will have to be moved a little bit faster for him. For MSU that probably doesn't mean good things for this season. But I think this could really boost the team in the future. The talent that Davis possesses is huge for the team but Bloodman being thrown into the fire this year can't be bad for his development.
Also thrown into the fire will be freshman Craig Sword. Sword comes over from Montgomery, Ala., as the state's player of the year. He was already slated to gain serious playing time but the departures mean that he could possibly be moved over to point if needed. These problems are something that haven't been seen at MSU in quite sometime. Prior to this season, MSU had either a proven point man, or someone who had proven it at the prep ranks. Sword is normally a shooting guard but his skill set could make MSU better than what it would be with Bloodman.
Also garnering playing time more than likely will be freshman Fred Thomas. The talented Thomas comes over from the talented Jackson Public School ranks at Jim Hill. A kid that seemed to score at will last season on the way to the state championship, Thomas went down with an injury that required surgery. Dawg fans felt like they once again could not catch a break, but he seems to have rehabbed well and should be ready by opening game next week. Getting him in the game with experience should really develop this team much better.
A late addition to the class was Memphis round-baller, Andre Applewhite. The son of a coach, Applewhite should add some decent depth to the group. Slightly overlooked, Applewhite has nice size at 6-5 and can shoot the ball well and does a nice drive off the dribble.
Extremely scary to think about what this team has ahead of them this season. But the talent level is not awful. The only thing these players lack is experience and depth. I believe that this season will be looked back at as the key to our future success. It's going to be a rough season as a whole, but if this team stays together and buys into what Rick Ray is selling things should be good in the future.