It has been a season to forget to this point for Mississippi State first-year basketball head coach Rick Ray.
Ray and the Bulldogs have had to battle several injuries this season, including injuries to the top returning players.
Junior guard Jalen Steele suffered a fractured wrist against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 13. He was put in a cast and has not played since. Steele got the cast taken off this week and that's good news for Ray and MSU.
"Once they removed the cast, they have some new technology called a six-technique X-ray," Ray said Thursday. "Everything in that X-ray showed that things properly healed while he was in the cast, so now he's in a splint. In that splint, he cannot wear that during a game. Right now he is cleared to do everything we can do as far as non-contact. He is not going to be playing in the game we play at Jackson."
The Bulldogs (3-6) play the Bears of Central Arkansas (4-4) in the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on Saturday.
"Once we get back from playing the game in Jackson and Christmas break, we will reevaluate the situation," Ray said. "There's a possibility he could play in our next game on Dec. 30, but that still remains to be seen. He has to be cleared for contact. He cannot play in the game with that splint because it still has a metal device in it."
The Bulldogs host Alabama A&M Dec. 30.
Other Bulldogs like freshmen Jacoby Davis and DeAndre Applewhite along with senior forward Wendell Lewis have all suffered knee injuries.
Lewis fractured his right patella in practice last week. He did not play in Mississippi State's 59-51 loss to Loyola last Saturday.
"Wendell had his surgery Wednesday," Ray said. "Everything went fine. There was nothing in there they didn't expect to find. There was no setbacks during the surgery procedure. Right now we sent him home to be with his family because he was going to go home anyway after the Jackson game. He's there with his family. It is looking from my understanding that it is a six-week progress before we can find out anything about it."
Davis and Applewhite were lost for the season. Lewis' status is unknown at this time and there are several ways for him to go.
Lewis has only played in eight games this season. A medical redshirt is an option that is on the table.
"That is a possibility," Ray said. "I have already sat down and talked to Wendell about that. Wendell has to do what he thinks is best for him. For me, I think the best thing for Wendell would be to medically redshirt. First and foremost, it allows him to graduate here at Mississippi State, not worry about trying to get everything done here in the summer, or come back for the semester. It allows him to build some sort of a resume to have a professional career after Mississippi State."
At this point and time, the Bulldogs have only six healthy scholarship players and eight men on the roster.
When Steele returns, it will make it seven scholarship players and nine players on the squad.
Ray could use Lewis for the rest of the this season, but that is not on his mind.
"I think at the end of the day, you have to step back from the situation and ask yourself 'are you being selfish,'" Ray said. "I think that would be a selfish act upon me if we have a situation where a young man has an opportunity to come back and play a full year with how well he has been playing. (We can) give him an opportunity to play that way for a full season rather than having the selfish act of bringing him back and possibly playing a few games. I couldn't sleep with myself at night knowing I took away that kid's opportunity."
Lewis does not have to make that decision now. Ray has urged him to sit down with people close to him and mull over the options.
"What he wants to do with that opportunity is up to him," Ray said. "I can give him the positives and the negatives of it, but Wendell Lewis is a grown man. He has some people around him, support system, that I told him to talk to about the situation. I think he has to do what's best for him."