Mississippi State men's basketball coach RickÂ Ray talks during the 2012 Southeastern Conference Basketball Media day in Hoover, Ala., last week. (Photo by Dave Martin, AP)
Mississippi State basketball head coach Rick Ray is going to see how good his team really is beginning on Sunday.
The Bulldogs host William Carey at 4 p.m. in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Right now, you are going against yourself everyday in practice," Ray said at the MSU basketball media day Thursday. "You don't know how to gauge if some of the turnovers you are causing is because of bad offense or because of good defense. Now you get to see if our defense is this good or is our defense that bad. I am looking forward to this as a measuring stick of where we actually are as a team."
Ray is looking for some intensity out of his players. Although it is only an exhibition game, Ray wants his team to approach it like it was a regular season game.
"The thing I'm looking forward to the most (to answering is) do our guys have some enthusiasm about playing the game of basketball?" Ray said. "Do we go out there with some fire and some competitive spirit?"
For veteran players like Jalen Steele, Sunday's exhibition will be a sign of relief from a very intense fall practice.
"I can't wait for it (because of all the) hard work we've been doing, all the practice we've been doing, (and) all the running we've been doing," Steele said. "It's all going to pay off in the end. We are going to be ready for this exhibition game."
With just a week left before the Bulldogs open the season at Troy next Friday, Ray doesn't think his squad is at the point he thought they might be.
"We are a little bit behind right now as far as our half-court offense," Ray said. "Our full court offense is on pace right now. Defensively, we have a long way to go. Simple things like rotating to the basketball and sinking to the help side. Right now we are a little more concerned about our man on help-side defense than where the ball is. That is pretty typical early in the season when you are taking over a team."
The Bulldogs only return three players from last year's squad who actually got some playing time. Steele and Wendell Lewis are the two veteran players on the squad, while Roquez Johnson saw limited playing time last year.
"It will be a huge deal," Ray said of lack of experience. "We just got basically a new team. You only have a couple of guys that have played college basketball. What we try to do in practice right now is play a lot of games. Whether it be a 4-minute game or an 8-minute game, (and) have late game situations to see if our guys deal with time to score."
Many players agree that they are quick and believe the biggest strength of the team is out-running opponents.
"I'm glad our guys feel like they can get out in transition and go make plays by out-running people," Ray said. "I want our guys to have some freedom to go out and make plays especially in transition."
He is ready to see his players compete against players from other teams versus inner squad scrimmages.
Ray has not chosen captains yet. He is waiting to see which players handle pressure well in game-like moments.
"We may not pick a captain until we pick a few games," Ray said. "To me, captain is about being a leader. I haven't pin-pointed a time we'll do that but at some point, we'll do that and give it to the person that deserves it."
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