Howland holds first official practice

New men’s basketball coach Ben Howland held his first official practice at Mississippi State on Monday.

A dozen players were able to participate with Aric Holman, Joe Strugg, Xavian Stapleton and Reggie Patterson sitting out due to injury. Demetrius Houston and Fallou Ndoye were limited during the initial practice.

Opening statement…

“(Today) was our first official practice, although we had a similar practice on Saturday. Today’s practice was a little different. We had Demetrius out here for most of it. We had nine healthy scholarship players, although he tweaked his hip flexor a little bit today on a dunk. We’ll know more tomorrow. Fallou is going through all of our practice that doesn’t have contact, which is some of it, but not a lot of it. The guys are working real hard. I thought the enthusiasm was good. They had a good attitude. We had a lot to do, but I was encouraged by our practice today.”

On when the offense and defense will be installed…

“We’re doing that right now, but it’s slow. We’re starting at ground zero, so it’s (things like) jumping to the ball, how to pressure the ball, how to trail ball screens, how to extend screens and how to bump cutters legally—where you’re there before they get there and making sure the official sees that you’re there first by having your arms up in the air. These games are to be called closely. Not only early in the year. They’re committing to do it the whole year now.”

On Malik Newman…

“I think having another good player in the backcourt that can shoot makes it better for Craig (Sword). I think all of our guys improved their shots. I.J. (Ready) shoots the ball real well. Q (Quinndary Weatherspoon) shoots the ball well. Fred (Thomas) has improved his shooting. Johnny (Zuppardo) and Travis (Daniels) are shooting the ball real well. Being able to stretch to floor will open things up for everybody who’s a good dribbler. Chicken’s (Sword) is our best and he can attack the rim well.”

On Craig Sword’s hamstring…

“It looks good. He’s a little sore. You usually find out more tomorrow morning than you do right after practice.” On the concern of injuries and if it changes practice… “Yeah. Today we went longer than I wanted to, because we have so much teaching. I’m talking a lot during practice because it’s all new terminology we’re teaching. Now, we’re focused on defense for the first time, starting this past Saturday. The whole point, up to now, was 90 percent fundamentals and offense.”

On if that was the same way when he took over at Pittsburgh and UCLA…

“Yeah, it was the same everywhere. I really thought our team would need a lot of help shooting and passing. So we spent a larger amount of time doing those two things during this past summer and spring.”

On if he or the players are more excited…

“Everyone is excited. It’s a great time of year. Today is (October) 5th and we open up in a month and eight days. It’s right around the corner. We have a lot to put in in a short amount of time. It’s better than starting on the 15th or the closest Friday. In years past we would start as late as (October) 17th or 18th and have a game on (November) 12th. You would only have 25 days.”

On if there is a particular message for the players…

“Just that we need to practice every day how we are going to play in a game. That intensity, focus and attention to detail the whole time.”

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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