Mississippi State’s Rick Ray joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC men’s basketball teleconference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs recent performances and preview its match-ups this week.
Here is a transcript of Ray’s time on the call…
Ray: “We’re coming off a really good win here at home against the LSU Tigers, who I believe is an NCAA Tournament team. They’re leading our conference in scoring. I thought our guys had really played well against Georgia and Ole Miss but just hadn’t been rewarded with a win.
“I thought it was really beneficial for our guys psyche to continue to go through the process and end up getting rewarded with a win.
“Now we’re getting prepared for a really good Tennessee team that presents a lot of problems with the way they play basketball. That 2-2-1 press back to that match-up zone is something that’s unique in our league. It’s really difficult when you prepare for a team that plays no man defense at all.
“I’m sitting here watching tape and getting ready for that. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
How would you describe I.J. Ready’s season so far and how has he improved since last season?
Ray: “To be honest, you really didn’t know what you were going to get from him coming off of back surgery. These doctors can say all they want to about back surgery but when these young men come out of back surgery, you really don’t know how they’re going to respond to that.
“It’s really weird. I.J. had his back surgery about two weeks after Chicken (Craig Sword) has his back surgery and ended up coming back about 12 days before Chicken came back. The way he’s handled the rehab and recovery has been phenomenal.
“Now he’s starting to get into game shape and you’re really starting to see the dividends of what I.J. Ready can be as a basketball player. The challenge that we had for I.J. is that we wanted him to be more aggressive as a basketball player. He’s a young man that really wants to be a quintessential point guard that has a high assist to turnover ratio and share the basketball.
“But we need him to be a little more daring and get his teeth in the middle of the defense so he can make plays for us off the ball screen. He’s been willing to do that and the results have been really positive.”
Where are you as a team? You’ve already reached last year’s SEC win total halfway through the season.
Ray: “To be honest, I look at this as our first season. This is the first season in which we’ve really had enough bodies to really compete at the SEC level. It’s fair to say that we’re the only team in the nation or maybe ever that had it’s starting backcourt out at the beginning of the season with back injuries.
“With those guys being out with back surgery, we really didn’t get off to a great start. We’re starting to build some harmony and some team rhythm. I think our guys are finally starting to figure out who they are and what their role is on this team.
“I really believe we’re playing our best basketball now. We’ve got everybody healthy now and have everybody on the same page.”