Mississippi State men’s basketball finally enjoyed success for the first time in half a decade. The Bulldogs have steadily improved during coach Ben Howland’s short tenure and finally got over the hump last season. State basketball finished over .500 for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, finishing the season with a 25-12 overall record and a 9-9 conference record. They still have some work to do to start hanging with the heavyweights of the SEC, but the Bulldogs are definitely headed in the right direction.
As we look ahead to the 2018-2019 season, there is reason to be very hopeful for Mississippi State basketball. For starters (literally), the Bulldogs are bringing back all six players who filled out the starting lineup the majority of the season. Bringing back talented, veteran leaders will be huge for a team aiming for great heights this year. Mississippi State is also bringing in an outstanding recruiting class, ranked 16th in the nation.
Now we are going to dive into how what we should expect from the returners and recruits for the upcoming Bulldogs basketball season:
The Returners: Weatherspoon brothers, Peters/Carter will be one of the best backcourt’s in college basketball along, expect big-man Ado to be even more solid
One of the highlights of last season were the Bulldogs backcourt play. Star guard Quinndary Weatherspoon had his third-straight solid season in Starkville and became an all-around star his junior year. Weatherspoon averaged 14 points on a career-high 48% from the field, but everyone already knew he could score the basketball. The best part of Weatherspoon’s campaign was him averaging a career-high 6 rebounds and 3 assists, doing a little bit of everything for Mississippi State. The 2nd-Team All-Sec guard tested the NBA waters out after the season, but ultimately decided to return to Starkville for his senior season. Weatherspoon has high expectations and NBA aspirations this year, so he should be on track for a stellar year.
Speaking of Weatherspoon’s, Nick should also take strides to improve this year. The youngest Weatherspoon averaged almost 11 points in his freshman year, along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He showed great flashes of talent, but will need to become more efficient scoring in his sophomore year. Nick Weatherspoon shot under 30% from behind the 3-point line and only 72% from the free-throw line. He has bounds of potential and by becoming more consistent, he will greatly improve this season.
The Weatherspoon’s are joined by Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter in the backcourt, who each have their own set of positives and negatives. Peters averaged almost 10 points per game, 2 rebounds, and led the team with 4.5 assists per game. One can attribute his 2+ turnovers per game to the fact he had the ball the majority of the time he was in the game, but what Peters really needs to improve on is his shooting. He shot only 37% from the field and a dismal 27% from the 3-point line. If he can shoot considerably better, Peters will quickly become one of the best guards in the SEC. Peters split time with fellow guard Tyson Carter, whose numbers were polar opposites. Carter averaged almost 9 points and scored the ball very efficiently, shooting 41% from the field and 34% from three-point land. Carter is a great shooter who will continue to be that and, hopefully, begin to develop a complete game.
Finally, we shift form the perimeter to the paint, and to Abdul Ado. Ado was the Bulldogs presence down-low this year, averaging 8 points, 6 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks per game. Ado was a key player for Mississippi in his freshman year and will be again the upcoming year. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game, but it is hard to develop that when so much of the offense comes from the perimeter. If Ado can continue to be solid in the paint by grabbing boards and blocking shots, he will play big minutes again this year.
The Recruits: Bulldogs grab three 4-star recruits, one 3-star, including #31 overall prospect Reggie Perry
Along with bringing back their core, Mississippi State has a very solid 2018 recruiting class, headlined by 5-star and #31 overall recruit Reggie Perry. Perry, a McDonald’s All-American who first planned on attending Arkansas before decommitting, is a 6’9 stretch power forward who can spread the floor for the Bulldogs. Without any big-man scoring presence, Perry should be able to find big minutes from the moment he gets to Starkville.
The other 4-star recruits are SF Robert Woodard and SG DJ Stewart. Woodard is described as “strong bodied wing that can score at levels.” At 6-6, he is a lanky, big body that has three-and-D role potential all over him. If he proves he can play at the college level before the season starts, he will find time on the second unit. Stewart is a lanky guard who has great potential, but will have trouble finding time with all the guards the Bulldogs alrady have. Lastly is JUCO transfer Jethro Tshisumpa, who will look to find backup center minutes.