Fort Valley State preview

Senior guard Fred Thomas begins his final season at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Senior guard Fred Thomas begins his final season at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State enters the Ben Howland era as the first-year head coach leads the Bulldogs against Fort Valley State in an exhibition game Friday at Humphrey Coliseum.

Tip is set for 7 p.m., and admission is free and open to the public.

“I’m really excited. (Scrimmaging UAB) 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,” Howland said. “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. I will just be so relieved to be healthy with 10 guys.”

The Bulldogs return four starters and three additional letter winners to the 2015-16 squad. Seniors Craig Sword, Gavin Ware, Fred Thomas, Travis Daniels and junior I.J Ready return valuable experience while sophomores Demetrius Houston and Fallou Ndoye seek to build upon solid performances after their first full seasons with MSU.

Despite an injury-plagued junior season, Sword returns 11.3 points per game as the team’s leading scorer. Ware averaged 7.1 rebounds per contest last season, which was best on the team and also tied for sixth-best in the Southeastern Conference, while also ranking second on the team with 10 points per game. Ready also returns the team-best average in assists (2.4) and steals (1.3) per game.

Accompanying the veterans, Mississippi State welcomes nine newcomers, including a highly-touted freshman class to the team. After missing all of last season due to injury, senior Johnny Zuppardo is ready to see his first action in Maroon and White.

McDonald’s All-American and preseason second-team All-SEC member Malik Newman, along with Joe Strugg, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman, round out Howland’s freshmen class.

Due to injuries, Newman, Strugg and Holman will miss Friday’s game.

Fort Valley State is led by fifth-year coach Sammy Jackson. The Wildcats closed the 2014-15 season with a 4-23 record at the NCAA Division II level and finished sixth in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Senior center Ralph Wilson returns as the Wildcats’ leading scorer and rebounder with 8.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per outing.

MSU opens regular season play against Eastern Washington on Friday, Nov. 13. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

(From MSU Media Relations)

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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