The basketball season and the start of a new era for Mississippi State is almost here with new coaches at the helm of the men's and women's programs.
Tonight as Pumpkinpalooza takes over the streets of Starkville, Rick Ray, his Bulldogs, Vick Schaefer and his Lady Bulldogs take center stage to debut the 2012 version of Mississippi State basketball.
Truthfully, tonight’s slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests are simply window dressing, a chance to have some fun and show off their new uniforms. Saturday however, will be an entirely different story for Ray's Bulldogs.
For the first time since Ray became the head coach, he’ll have his entire team on the court. He’s held individual workouts. They’ve had group sessions, but Ray purposely kept his team apart until they take the court as a team on Saturday.
"First of all, I want to put together a true team," Ray said. "Yeah, everybody has a team. No, that's not true and not everybody has a true team. I want guys that care about each other both on and off the court. That seems like a small thing but I want guys that care about each other both on and off the court.”
The fact they haven’t worked together as a cohesive unit at this point gives Ray a blank canvas to work with, but that’s not a concern for the first year head coach.
“We haven't done anything competitive five on five yet and played any basketball games," Ray said. "What they've demonstrated in our 4-on-0 and 5-on-0 workouts is they've tried to assume roles. Now, whether they end up being successful in those new roles remains to be seen and I'm excited about finding out what they can and can't do so far."
Starkville High fans will also want to note that freshman center Gavin Ware has made the transition from a Yellowjacket to a Bulldog and is ready to contribute.
"Gavin has been great," Ray said. "It's real simple, as his weight decreased, he's looked better on the court. In those first workouts where he weighed 290 pounds, he didn't look very good. As the weight has dropped off, his performance has gone up. I think Gavin has been terrific and coach (Richard) Akins has done a terrific job with him as far as monitoring what he's eating and getting him in the weight room.”
Mississippi State opens the season on November 9 as it travels to Troy, Ala., to face the Trojans.