Howland preps MSU for first road game

Mississippi State coach Ben Howland has been juggling practices with his players during finals week. The Bulldogs are preparing to play their first true road game of the season at Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday. Howland gave an update on his team including the transfer of Demetrius Houston, transition of Elijah Staley to basketball and health updates on Aric Holman and I.J. Ready.

On Aric Holman coming back to practice…

“Aric has been in and out of the last three practices for an hour each day. He has done a really good job for a guy who hasn’t practiced in three months. He has a great feel for the game, but he still has a lot of strength he needs to gain in that leg. We have been discussing it with our trainer and the team doctor. He still has quite a ways to go before he is back at 100 percent where we can throw him into a game. He looks really good when we are doing half-court stuff in practice. As soon as we start doing up and down stuff, his lack of condition shows up pretty quickly. What we don’t want is to have him out there and push him too hard and have him injured by trying to push him too hard, too soon.”

On Elijah Staley going back and forth between football and basketball…

“He will be with bowl practices once they start getting ready for that. The game is on Dec. 30, so he will be preparing for that. He will be traveling this weekend. Once the game is over, his plan is to rejoin the team immediately. He has good skill level for someone who hasn’t played basketball in a while. He has a good feel for the game. He obviously isn’t in basketball condition, so that’s something we will try and remedy to get him up to speed. He really helps us because he gives us another quality player out there to make our practices more competitive. He just has a lot to learn. We have been trying to teach him some of the sets and some of the different things we are doing on man offense. This week it has been a zone week because our next opponent [UMKC] is basically all zone.”

On the biggest difference for Travis Daniels this year…

“I think playing the four spot exclusively. Now he has been playing a little bit of three in practice just because with Aric [Holman] and Eli [Wright] coming, who are basically four position players. For us to have a competitive practice he is going to have to play some three in practice. He has been playing at four and I think he has been doing a really good job. He is second on the team in offensive boards at 20. He is doing really good at shooting the three ball when he is open and we would like to see him get more opportunities because of that high percentage. He is working really hard defensively which is good for us.”

On having 10 days off of game action…

“It’s been good, but it’s been part of a big focusing on their studies. Our last practice wasn’t a great practice because guys are mentally whipped from doing papers and studying and getting ready for finals. I am reminded every year around this time that it’s no fun. They are working hard. They are up late and getting up early. There is a lot of stress and pressure on them to get what they need to done. Today, for example, a bunch of our players have an 8 a.m., final, we are practicing from noon to 2 p.m., and then they have three o’clock finals. We are throwing a practice in-between two finals. Hopefully the practice will help them do well on their three o’clock final. Our practice today after stretching will only be an hour and 50 minutes. I have to keep really coherent to that to make sure they are on time. I don’t want them being late to anything.”

On how the defense is going…

“It’s been good. We are also spending more time trying to attack the zone offensively, which is something we have done very little of. When you think about our first seven games, we have seen little to no zone for the most part. So we have spent a lot of time on that, because the team we are playing is clean out of finals and it’s a road game, which again I shake my head at. Look up how many power five conference teams are going on the road coming out of finals. We have to be one of the few, because it’s more difficult. They [UMKC] are a good team to contend with. They are well coached and they have a difficult style to play against. We are doing a lot of work in the zone and getting ready to attack the zone for what we expect to be 40 minutes of zone.”

 

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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