Jalen Steele took the podium Wednesday afternoon as the new face of Mississippi State basketball and ensured Mississippi State fans there is a new brand of basketball on the way.
“Coming in here after all I’ve been through, it’s been quite a ride, but I’m here standing strong and ready to move on for another year,” Steele said as he addressed the media. “Most of the players that played a lot, they’re gone and it is time for us to step up and accept big roles. I’m going to accept this role and make the most out of it.”
Steele was honest in looking back on the 2011-12 season and the opportunities that were missed, admitting the Bulldogs were talented enough to reach the Sweet 16 but they got in their own way of achieving their goals. He simply said ‘it is a breath of fresh air’ to have players leave the program. The drama is gone and he is ready to take advantage of his opportunity.
“It is a great feeling knowing we don’t have to worry about who is going to go where," said Steele who made 70 3-point baskets last season for MSU. "Now we can work with the group that’s here.
"Now it is my time, and it is our time. It is our turn to step up and show people that we can play also and prove everybody wrong that we can win games next year.”
Steele didn’t shy away from acknowledging the amount of work it would take to return Bulldog basketball back to form.
“I just told Wendell (Lewis) that we’ve got to go out and work twice as hard as we have worked in our entire life,” said Steele. “We’ve got to do that just to keep the team in shape, keep us in shape and get the new guys in here and help them out.”
New MSU head coach Rick Ray is expected to bring his own style to the table and that’s something that got Steele’s attention from day one.
“First of all, he is going to express defense,” he said. “He said if you’re not going to play defense, then you’re not going to play. Right then I was like, he’s serious about this.”
Ray’s defense-first approach is perfectly fine with Steele because he knows the fast paced offense the Bulldogs will now employ will benefit from great defense.
More importantly, it is the discipline the defensive-minded coach brings to the table that has Steele excited.
“He’s been tough," Steele said. "Everything he does is hard. No mess-ups and everything has to be on time. He’s just the type of guy that will not accept less than what you can do. If you can do more, then he expects more.”
One thing is for sure, MSU has much hard work ahead of them and Steele is ready for the task of leading the squad.