Howland preparing for first practice

Mississippi State men’s basketball coach Ben Howland met with the media Monday afternoon in advance of the Bulldogs’ first fall practices beginning on Oct. 5.

Opening Comment …         
“We’re going to have our last two hour a week practice, you can split them up any way you want, so we’ll start our real practice Saturday. You can start on the Oct. 2, but it doesn’t count as one of our practice days because it’s the two hours we’re going to use this week to practice. It’s been really difficult the last couple practices because we’re down so many players. We have Aric Holman who’s out right now, Joe Strugg is out, Xavian Stapleton’s out and we’ve had “Chicken” (Craig Sword) with the hamstring strain. He was only able to practice partially this past Saturday when we went for two hours, but I’m hopeful that we will have the ten guys, including Fallou Ndoye. Fallou can practice without any contact right now. He’s playing in a brace, but he is able to get out there and run and move, but he just can’t have any contact. We’re anticipating that Fallou will be back to full contact hopefully by the middle of October.”

On practicing defense …
“You know a week ago we did a lot of introducing shell, which is really the foundation of our defense. We’re already introducing our transition defense somewhat, but that’ll be the beginning of it. This Saturday, we’ll definitely be focused on our defense, and that’s how you win. Night in and night out, the thing you control most, in my opinion as a coach, is defense and defensive effort. You can’t win, and win at a high level, without playing great defense, which was exemplified by our football team last weekend in Auburn, Ala., (nine) points, no touchdowns, outstanding.”

On Malik Newman and expectations for him …
“It happens organically, but bottom line is what I tell him: ‘Everybody is out to go after you. You’re coming in with this great reputation for being an outstanding player, top ten player in the country.’ Everybody we play against can’t wait to get a piece of him and go right after him, to try to build that name for themselves. We have juniors, seniors, sophomores, all those players, so he’s got to be at the top of his game every night when we step on the floor knowing that’s the challenge every time for him, to lead our team as point guard and to also with stand that challenge every night. He’s got everybody coming right at him because of the bull’s eye on his chest.”

On the biggest adjustment for a highly recruited player …
“I think it just depends on the kid. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of highly talented players and highly ranked players coming out of high school, and he’s definitely a special talent. The thing that makes Malik so good is his skill level and his intelligence. He’s really, really bright. He’s a very smart player, very smart kid; he really is beyond his years in terms of his feel for the game, and his intelligence. He is a very good shooter. He can really stroke the ball and put it in in different ways. He’s unselfish; he has great leadership qualities. It’s really a pleasure to be coaching him because he’s special. He’s got a bright future, and we want him to have a great year this year for our team and help get this program back on the right track.”

On Malik being a one and done player …
“We’ve already discussed that. He is a one and done player. We’ve said that in I think every press conference I have, and nothings changed. I fully expect him to be entering the draft this June. That was the mindset when we recruited him, and that’s still the mindset.”

On Howland’s confidence of Malik entering the draft …
“You never know for certain, but I feel pretty certain this is going to work out for Malik because he’ll be in and out of here in one year. That will ultimately be up to him and his father at the end of our season based on the information they’re going to be able to get from the NBA GM’s and Scouts. They’re going to say,’ Definitely you’re in the top twenty.’ If he’s a top 20 pick, and we all hear that from everybody, he definitely should go.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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