Ben Howland has an outstanding résumé when it comes to recruiting, coaching, and developing guards in the college game before they make the jump to the NBA. Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, and Norman Powell all played in the backcourt for Ben Howland and all are playing meaningful minutes in the Association.
Nick Weatherspoon is next in line.
Nick Weatherspoon is widely considered one of the top-tier point guards in the entire nation in a deep and talented 2017 recruiting cycle. 247Sports moved the athletic guard to 23rd in the nation in their updated and final rankings for the 2017 class and Scout recruiting also has him in their top 25 prospects. It is clear that Ben Howland and Misssissippi State added a high level player that is capable of taking the Bulldogs to the next level as the team looks to get over the hump and get to The Dance. The list of blue bloods that offered him, the coaches that came to see him play, and his ability to lead his team to multiple state titles backs that up: Baylor, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, and North Carolina are just some of the big name basketball programs that offered a scholarship to the Camden native. Roy Williams came to see him play, Bill Self attempted to sell him to come to Lawrence, and Rick Pitino was hoping to use Weatherspoon to make a deep run in the tournament.
In the end, Weatherspoon decided that staying home to team up with brother and All-SEC guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and learning from a coach with Ben Howland’s pedigree was too much to pass up.
The 5-star guard led Velma Jackson High School to their fourth state title in five years while winning MVP honors during his senior season, showing that he has both the talent and the leadership to lead a team to glory. The younger brother of All-SEC Second Team selection Quinndary, the younger brother will look to have the same impact in Starkville.
Weatherspoon brings a level of athleticism to each and every game that is very rare around the country. From attacking the basket to pulling up beyond the perimeter, Weatherspoon knows how to score points in a variety of different ways. How rare? Well, Ben Howland has high praise for his big time signee. The coach that took UCLA to three consecutive Final Fours compared the Velma Jackson guard to another superstar guard that he coached. Per Paul Jones of Bulldawgs247, Howland said:
"Watching him a year ago, he played out in Vegas and was phenomenal," said Howland of Weatherspoon. "He made his team so much better. He's the only other player I've ever watched that reminded me of Russell Westbrook. He is the only kid I've ever recruited where I've said 'yeah, he's like Russell'. That is about the ultimate compliment I can pay a player and it's because of his motor. What makes Russell special is what makes Nick special - competitiveness, toughness, desire to win and plays both ends of the floor.”
Weatherspoon’s successful head coach Anthony Carlyle sat down with Gene Swindoll of Scout Recruiting back in September and expressed similar thoughts:
"I think his athleticism will go to another level. We all think when he plays he kind of reminds us of a younger (NBA player) Russell Westbrook because he plays so hard each possession on the offensive and defensive ends. And once he gets to Mississippi State, with all that talent he will have around him, he won't have to do as much, which will make his game even better."
Obviously, comparing a high school senior to one of the five best players on the planet is absurd, but Weatherspoon does display the same playing style while on the court. At 6-2 and over 170, Weatherspoon has the ideal size for an effective floor general in the SEC. His quick first step and handles allow the highly talented guard to blow by defenders to get to the paint and finish at the rim. His vision gives him the ability to find the open man when penetrating defenses, something his older brother Q, Tyson Carter, and Xavian Stapleton will enjoy and benefit from. While a very talented point guard, Weatherspoon’s versatility and shooting will allow Howland to play the younger Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters together on the court to cause headaches for opposing coaches. Like Peters, the younger Weatherspoon plays with a swagger that makes him seem like the best player on the court. With Ben Howland’s history of playing multiple point guards at the same time, Mississippi State fans should be excited about that this backcourt can potentially do in the upcoming seasons.
The 5-star superstar point guard is able to affect the outcomes of games in many different ways. His high motor and lateral quickness allow him to lock down on the defensive side, his explosiveness and aggressiveness allows him to get in the paint and to the rim at will, and his shot makes him a threat from both mid-range and from three. Whether it is in the paint or beyond the arc, Nick Weatherspoon knows how to get the basketball in the hoop. The way he is able to take over games is something that Mississippi State has desperately needed. While there are still things to improve on to become a consistent floor general, it is clear that the effort he plays with and the athleticism he displays makes him a very unique player that State was very fortunate to land. With as many close games as Mississippi State lost this past season, Weatherspoon is exactly the kind of player with the ability to take over games and get State over the hump.
Mississippi State brings back a young and talented core featuring Quinndary Weatherspoon, All-Freshman floor general Lamar Peters, sharpshooter Tyson Carter, freakish athlete Xavian Stapleton, big men Schnider Herard and Aric Holman, and stretch forward Mario Kegler. In year three of the Ben Howland era, many are wanting to see a big jump. Mississippi State hoops is adding a high-level dynamic and explosive guard that has the opportunity and the talent to take the Bulldogs to the next level.