Expectations rise as practice begins

Mississippi State is ranked as high as No. 6 nationally by preseason publications coming off an NCAA Tournament run last year. The Bulldogs return 10 players and held their first practice on Tuesday. Head coach Vic Schaefer sat down with the media to talk about his expectations for this year.

Opening Statement …

Today is day two and we are excited to see our kids again. They are in the weight room now. We met this morning and talked about some of the good things we did. We just have such high expectations for this group. It is a veteran group although we only have one senior. We have 10 returners back. We certainly had a good night last night. I am excited about the athleticism and speed this team possesses. We have kids that can shoot the ball. I am anxious to see how they bounce back from a two hour, 45 minute workout last night.”

On Kayla Nevitt …

I need her to factor into the mix. She has a really good midrange jump shot. She elevates and has a high release. I need Kayla to help us and give us some really good minutes. She is athletic, long and quick. She can guard and defend and knows the importance of guarding and defending. She is also a great teammate. I need her to be in the mix. Everything I have seen from her, she is going to have that opportunity. I think last year she stumbled a little bit with her confidence. Confidence is all about your skill set. I think she should feel good about where she is right now. I certainly do as a head coach. I think she knows that I have a lot of confidence in her. She certainly looked good in offseason workouts and last night.”

On expectations with the preseason Top 10 rankings …

I said it last night that our expectations are to get better every day. That is all we are talking about. We are certainly flattered by what people think of our program. It is certainly well deserved form a player standpoint because they work awfully hard. For us, we want to get better every day. That is it. That is our challenge and our goal. If we can get better every day, come March we will be in a good place.”

On adapting to the standards the program set after last season …

The team had a different feel, for me, in that we have been under the radar the three years I have been here. Those days are over. The challenge is if we are going to be able to embrace all of the expectations that people have of us. Our job as coaches is to provide an environment to make them comfortable with that.”

On the freshmen …

We don’t have to rush them. We have enough players coming back where there is going to be patience allowed. We are not going to have to throw those kids into the game. They will have time to learn the system and be able to function in it. It is really hard at this level to be successful at 18 years of age. We recruited these kids that they should be able to provide us some assistance this year. I need them. It is always good to have a great combination. We have some options there. I do think we are provided a little patience for them.”

On the team …

We have a competitive group. I think at the end of the day, we have 15 players who want to win. They all want to play, but they understand that if somebody is playing better than they are then that is who is going to play. I like our chemistry. I like our team. I think we have quality people. I am excited about this group for sure.”

On Victoria Vivians …

She is obviously a year older. She went to USA Trials and did not make it. You hope somebody that does not make it comes back hungrier and more focused. We worked in the offseason on her ball handling. I think that is an area that needed work, and I think she got better there. Her challenge is going to be trying to be a good shooter and understanding what a good shot is. She has to be a better defender for us.”

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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