Howland has MSU ready for exhibition

Mississippi State coach Ben Howland watched his team defeat UAB in a closed door scrimmage on Saturday. Howland and the Bulldogs will play in front of a crowd for the first time Friday hosting Fort Valley State at 7 p.m. He spoke with the media about his early impressions of the team and also their health status.

Mississippi State Head Coach Ben Howland

On what the scrimmage showed…

“I thought our guys really played. They really competed and showed a lot of energy. Our seniors in particular played well. Chicken (Craig Sword), Fred (Thomas), Gavin (Ware) and Travis (Daniels) all in particular had a really great game. Our defense played really well. Travis and Fred were very active defensively. Q (Quinndary Weatherspoon) had to play out of position and he was playing point guard the whole time he was in. We had practiced him there some so he had some experience before going in. UAB is a good team and that was a good test for us.”

On Gavin Ware changing his shot…

“He shot really well. He shot with good arch and he did a good job of keeping his eyes on the target. Those are the two most important things we continue to talk to him about and have him work on. When he does those two things he is a very good shooter.”

 On seeing Craig Sword in a game setting…

“I’m very familiar with Chicken after coaching him for a number of months. He is just really hard to defend because he is so athletic, it makes it easy for him to get to the rim. He does a great job of creating separation off of screens. His athletic ability and his strength really shows. He is going to become a better defender, especially once he starts to become more active with his hands. He is a great competitor and he wants to win.”

On getting Gavin Ware the touches he needs…

“I think he had 12 or 13 shot attempts. He did a really good job running the floor. We have to get better at that as a team and we are so far.”

On the team’s rebounding…

“We out-boarded our opponent on Saturday, which was really good but there is definitely room for us to improve there. We can definitely improve from the guard line and getting more help for our guards to rebound. I expect both I.J. (Ready) and Malik (Newman) will be good rebounders for us.”

On his mindset getting closer to a new season…

“I’m really excited. It was really fun for me on Saturday. It was a big deal for me since it was my first game coaching since my last game against University of Minnesota in the NCAA tournament a couple years ago. It was exciting because we approached it like a game and it gave us the exercise to see how you prepare for an opponent and how we will take film and study them. Our guys did that really well for a first time this season. I will just be so relieved to be healthy with 10 guys.”

On what he has seen out of I.J. Ready…

“I think I.J. shows good leadership for the team. He is a verbal kid and he is very outspoken. He is always positive and uplifting to his teammates. This morning he came in and shot and I was down there with him and his shooting looked great. I am excited for I.J. and what he has done for us so far. We need great defensive intensity and ball pressure from him. He needs to improve on rebounding the basketball but I expect I.J. to have a really solid campaign for us as he continues to grow and develop.”

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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