The Mississippi State Bulldogs have been a bit of a mess over the last two years. The team parted ways with long-time head coach Rick Stansbury and brought in Rick Ray to man the helm of the hardwood version of the Maroon and White. From the get-go, Ray has had to deal with transfers and dismissals from his squad. As he has gone through this, he has worked to bring in new players in an attempt to build the program his way in Starkville, and his class of 2014 looks as if it can become solid core for future Bulldog seasons.
Mississippi State had three players sign on to play basketball in November of 2013: Demetrius Houston, Oliver Black, and Maurice Dunlap.
Houston, a small forward out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, checks in at 6' 6", and he comes to Mississippi State as a top-50 prospect in the country at his position according to 24/7. As a junior, he averaged 15.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest. Houston also held offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Seton Hall.
Black, a 6' 9" power forward out of Wingfield High School in Jackson, Mississippi, could provide much more than just another player for Mississippi State. His size alone should help the Bulldogs tremendously in the frontcourt, a place where Mississippi State in reality only had the services of Gavin Ware and Roquez Johnson. Adding another big man to the frontcourt. Additionally, with the signing of Black, the Bulldogs managed to dip into the fertile grounds of Jackson, one of the more basketball-rich areas in Mississippi. Black also held offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tulane, and Wichita State.
Dunlap, a 6' 1" shooting guard, comes to Mississippi State from Amanda Elzy in Greenwood, Mississippi, and in him, Mississippi State grabbed one of the top shooting guards in the state. The Dandy Dozen player selected Mississippi State over offers from Louisiana Tech, Alcorn State, and Ole Miss, and he helped lead his team to a 4A state title as a sophomore in 2012.
Of note, all three players were recruited by George Brooks, the lone holdover from the Rick Stansbury coaching staff.
Also signed with Mississippi State is Elijah Staley, who is better known to Bulldog fans for his play on the gridiron. He has expressed an interest in playing both sports, and he could play basketball as a walk-on. However, given how little DeRunnya Wilson, a former Mr. Basketball in Alabama, was used by the basketball team after the football season, his contributions could be quite limited.
For Mississippi State and Rick Ray, the contributions of these players will prove very significant to both the short and longterm future of the Bulldogs. The last two seasons have shown some glimmers of hope, but they have also been saddled with 13-game losing streaks and a near permanent residence in the bottom quarter of the SEC. Should these players be able to come in and immediately contribute, the Bulldogs may be able to continue the turn around efforts of the past two years.
Perhaps the biggest basketball signing for Mississippi State came on the women's side of things as one of the top players in the nation, Victoria Vivians from Scott Central (Forest, Mississippi) signed to play with Mississippi State.