By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Rick Stansbury is a co-star in Mississippi State’s men’s basketball ad campaign, “It’s Our Turn.” The 14th-year coach was not, however, aware of that marketing slogan until somebody told him on Wednesday.
He’s not overly concerned with the school-wide “This is Our State” campaign, either. Stansbury is worried about hoops, and little else.
“I don’t worry about ‘our state.’ I worry about Kentucky, and I worry about Florida. That’s people I compete against,” he said.
Stansbury has never been much for bells and whistles, but there is good reason for the preseason hype.
The Bulldogs, who opened preseason practices Friday, have the parts to not only return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years, but to make a strong run once there.
The current personnel are as good a fit for Stansbury’s approach as he’s had in a while. He treasures defense and rebounding, and he said there are more players who can create off the dribble.
“Can we get everybody playing at the level of defending and rebounding I want to? That’s our challenge,” Stansbury said. “I think I have some more ability of guys to do that than we’ve had.”
A big concern
One of those guys is junior big man Renardo Sidney, whose troubles on and off the court are well-documented. He spent several weeks in Houston over the summer working with former NBA star John Lucas, and while he missed the Bulldogs’ exhibition tour through Europe in August, Stansbury likes what he’s seen of Sidney so far.
“It is the first (fall) conditioning that he’s made it through it,” Stansbury said. “That don’t mean he was winning every race, but he made it through it. And for him that’s a step in the right direction.
“We’ve just got to keep stepping in the right way and not step back.”
Senior Dee Bost returns as a fourth-year starter at point guard, but the backcourt will have a different look thanks to freshmen Deville Smith and Rodney Hood. Smith will spell Bost at point a good bit, allowing senior Brian Bryant to play the two guard, a more comfortable role for him.
Hood will likely start at the three spot.
“He has no cracks in his armor,” Stansbury said of Hood.
Considering the talent level, which includes Arnett Moultrie, the 6-foot-11 UTEP transfer, this is an MSU team that could finally get Stansbury past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
One reporter asked Wednesday how this squad compares to the 1995-96 team that reached the Final Four. Stansbury was an assistant coach under Richard Williams at the time.
“This is a different kind of team,” he said. “But are you asking me, do I think that you can put us on a neutral court, if this team’s right, and have a chance against anybody? I want to believe that all the time.
“This team has that kind of potential.”