Mississippi State men’s basketball is certainly in a state of transition.
New head coach Rick Ray brings a new style and a new attitude to the program that gives Wendell Lewis a reason to smile.
Lewis enters his senior season as one of the go-to players for Ray and that’s something foreign to the Alabama native.
“I feel like this year the coaches are going to depend on me to score more and be more active,” said Lewis. “They need me to be a leader toward the younger guys and the guys that have been here.”
While this is a new role for the Bulldog center, it is one he has welcomed by putting in the extra effort to be ready to lead his team.
The MSU big man opted to return to campus for the first semester of summer school and wants to be ready to take on the leadership role when his protégé, former Starkville High School player Gavin Ware, gets to campus.
“I’m going to be working with Gavin and I want to be ready to show him how we do things,” he said. “I needed to get in here and continue to workout with the right mindset so I can show him what he needs to know.”
It isn’t just the new role Lewis enjoys, it’s the new attitude brought in by the new staff.
“He will tell you once or twice, but that third time you mess up, he will make you run,” Lewis said of Ray. “You will be running all day. Just do it right the first time or you’ll be running all day. I like it.”
Being pushed by the coaching staff has not only forced Lewis to be a more disciplined player, but a more aggressive one. Once in high school, he apologized to teammates for scoring points and not passing them the basketball. That’s a mindset he admits he must shed.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be selfish,” he said. “Last year I felt like we had a lot of scorers so my job was to play defense, rebound and get the scorers open. I know it wasn’t my job to score.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve mostly passed the ball and played (defense). I haven’t really focused on my offensive game. Now, I’ve been working on my hook shot around the basket, basically all my offensive game around the basket.”
Lewis also feels Ray’s new style of play will help him flourish, setting the table for perhaps a breakout season.
“Everything we do now is constant movement,” said Lewis. “There is no stand still. It is moving and setting screens. I like this style of play because we will be up and down running. I like that. It is going to be fun.”
The Ray era of MSU basketball begins this fall and judging from the new attitude for Lewis, the Bulldogs are ready to prove they aren’t rebuilding.