On guard: MSU’s Sword eager to lead next season

Craig Sword has led Mississippi State in scoring each of his first two seasons. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Craig Sword has led Mississippi State in scoring each of his first two seasons. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Craig Sword has been Mississippi State’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons.

The 6-foot-3, 193-pound guard earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2012-13 averaging 10.5 points and followed up by scoring 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.

But with 64 collegiate games under his belt, Sword wants to take more of an ownership role on the Bulldogs roster entering Year 3.

“I’m trying to be a leader going into my junior year,” Sword said. “I want everybody to follow me, but that means now I’ll have to put in more work so that everybody will know I can be the go-to guy at the end of the game if they need me.”

Sword, affectionately known to his teammates and coaches as “Chicken,” led MSU in assists (88) and steals (60) but also in turnovers (96). That is one area the Montgomery, Ala., native is hard at work at to correct this offseason.

“I’ve got to cut down on my turnovers,” Sword said. “I’ve got to work on my ball handling in the offseason. As a team, we’ve just got to work on staying together and finishing games. We’ve got to come out in our individual workouts and get better. Every individual has to get better every day.”

Still growing

Sword was one of three high-profile recruits, along with Gavin Ware and Fred Thomas, signed by Rick Stansbury and inherited by Rick Ray as freshmen in his first season. That trio has been the nucleus Ray is building his team around for the future.

“You’ve got to keep in mind that these guys are still young basketball players,” Ray said. “We’ve relied on freshmen and sophomores these past two years to really be the bell cows for our guys. When we have juniors and seniors in our program, those guys are going to be really good players and will be guys we can rely on in the future.”

The Bulldogs ended the regular season on a 13-game losing skid but turned things around in the SEC tournament playing three solid halves of basketball before bowing out to Ole Miss in the second round.

“I think for 60 minutes in the SEC tournament we showed how good we can be and how bright our future is,” Ray said. “Once we get some depth in our program and get some guys through some maturation process I think you’ll see we’ve got a lot of talent in this program.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com