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Mississippi State Basketball 2012-13 Preview: Starting Five Prediction

Who will be the go-to guy? Who will be the leader? Who will be the role player? Honestly, who will even start for this squad?

Chris Graythen

Just like thecristilmethod wrote Monday, the remaining MSU basketball cast from last's year team is rather slim, and that's an underSTATEment. The likes of Dee Bost, Brian Bryant, Rodney Hood, Arnett Moultrie, Renardo Sidney, Deville Smith, and Shaun Smith are no longer around due to various reasons. Not to mention legendary coach Rick Stansbury was replaced by Twitter guru/former Clemson assistant Rick Ray. So what does this mean for State's starting five? Let's break it down into who could possibly get the starting nod in Sunday's exhibition against William Carey or Friday's season opener at Troy.

  • #0 Jalen Steele - Junior - Guard - 6' 3": No brainer here. Steele, a Knoxville, TN native, knew he would be a pivotal part of this year's team even midway through the season last year. As a sophomore, Jalen appeared in all 33 games for the Bulldogs. In those 33 contests, he started 16 times. His career-high 19 points came against the University of Georgia in the 2012 SEC Tournament. He's great at the free throw line, too. He went 16-16 at the line in SEC play last season. He was 40.4 percent (38-94) behind the three-point line... when the dude gets hot, he's a menace to teams playing zone. He finished the year averaging 8.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 0.3 steals a game. As a freshman, he appeared in 27 games, starting six of those. He has experience and State will need that tremendously.
  • #5 Wendell Lewis - Senior - Center - 6' 9": With Moultrie with the 76ers and Sidney, well... not sure where he is these days, look for Wendell Lewis, from Selma, AL to lock down the center position this season. Lewis has one of the most dominating-looking figures in the SEC. He's a force to be reckoned with when he gets the ball down low. As a junior, he appeared in all 33 games, but only drew six starts due last year's big men. He led MSU with 30 total blocked shots, averaged 3.8 points and 4 rebounds a game. One of the big question marks for Lewis will be his stamina. He did play a career-high 37 minutes versus Florida Atlantic and produced 8 points, 6 rebounds. He does have experience dating back to his sophomore and freshman seasons but again, he has always had more experienced big men ahead of him. Wendell will face some strong men on the block and it will be do or die. Word is he put on some more muscle mass and got leaner during the off season. Much needed for the Bulldogs.

Wendell Lewis blocks a shot (via sfslickdawg)

  • #25 Roquez Johnson - Sophomore - Forward - 6' 7": Ro is a power forward's dream. His physique is one many teams will have trouble with when he gets in the zone. He does lack a great deal of experience as a sophomore. He only saw action in 13 games, totaling 49 minutes as a freshman. Johnson actually went through a 14-game stretch last season where saw the floor only two times. Why? Not sure. There's really no telling given the crazy antics of 2011-2012. Ro was a solid high school player two years ago. As a senior, he led G.W. Carver out of Montgomery, AL to a 33-2 record and a No. 1 ranking. That season, he lead the team in rebounding (13.2), while averaging 16 points, 5.1 assists, 4 blocks, and 3.1 steals a game. He played against former teammates DeVille Smith and Rodney Hood in the 2011 Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game, finishing with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
  • #1 Fred Thomas - Freshman - Guard - 6' 5": "Flat top" Fred, as he was known at Jim Hill High, could be a dark horse for this team. Thomas led JHHS to a 24-11 record as a senior as well as the Class 6A title over Tupelo High, 76-74 in overtime. In this phenomenal game, Thomas single-handily dominated the Golden Wave in the late stages of the fourth quarter and OT. He scored a game-high 24 points and also hit the game-winning 3-pointer to clinch the first state basketball title for Jim Hill. During his senior campaign, he averaged 19.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 2.2 assists. He was a 2011-2012 Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen and also competed in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, scoring 15 points. Fred played every position in high school, mostly guard. He tends to have ups and downs but the guard position comes very natural to him. Fred was one recruit we looked at back in April to fill out fictional Fab Five squad. Look for his name early if he can recover from an off-season foot injury.

Fred Thomas with more highlights for Jim Hill vs. Tupelo High (via PlayOnNetwork)

  • #32 Craig Sword - Freshman - Guard - 6' 3": Another new face to the team. Sword was Alabama's Mr. Basketball as a senior averaging 17.5 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 5 steals. He was also awarded 6A Player of the Year and Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He is quite popular in Montgomery, AL for leading G.W. Carver High School to a 29-3 record and the 2012 Class 6A state title. Look for this kid to make a name for himself early as a shooting forward. He was listed a 4-star recruit by Rivals (88th overall best player in the country, 15th best shooting guard). Huge pickup for MSU given the program's current situation. Swords' choice to attend MSU could be credited to Coach Ray, Stansbury, or maybe even former high school teammate and current Bulldog, Ro Johnson.

Roquez Johnson & Craig Sword dunking at Carver (via MRDID334)

These five are total guesses guesstimations but you will definitely see a few other faces on the court this season:

  • #2 Andre Applewhite - Freshman - Guard - 6' 5": 2012 Memphis All-Star Game guard and Rivals Top 10 player from Central High in Memphis, TN.

Tennessee - Memphis Central's Applewhite with the slam (via PlayOnNetwork)

  • #4 Trivante Bloodman - Sophomore - Guard - 6' 0": 2011-2012 McDonald's All-American nominee from Olney Central County High in Bronx, NY.

Trivante Basketball highlights (via gdagreat1000)

  • #3 Colin Borchert - Junior - Forward - 6' 8": East Mississippi Community College transfer and 2011-2012 third-team NJCAA All-American from Phoenix, AR.

Colin Borchert - East Mississippi Forward (via ViridianSkyProd and @derekcody)

  • #11 Jacoby Davis - Freshman - Guard - 6' 1": 2011 Jordan Brand Class Regional All-Star Game guard from West Charlotte High in Charlotte, NC. (Indefinitely out due to an injury sustained in August)
  • #20 Gavin Ware - Freshman - Foward/Center - 6' 9": 98th-best player in nation by Scout and 99th-best senior by Rivals from Starkville High in Starkville, MS.

Gavin Ware Commits To Mississippi State Bulldogs (via Gymratinsider)

  • #24 Tyson Cunningham - Junior - Guard - 6' 3": Class of 2011 standout at Columbus High in Columbus, MS.
  • #15 Baxter Price - Senior - Guard - 5' 10": Class of 2010 standout at Northwest Rankin in Brandon, MS.

Something tells me this team will do more than what most fans are expecting. Not sure that can be based on wins and losses this year. Give Rick some time, people. He has a lot to prove with this program, and so do these dedication young men.