By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Jalen Steele is back on the bench, but this time it’s not because of an injury.
The Mississippi State junior guard has been suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules, first-year coach Rick Ray announced Saturday. No further details were given.
Steele, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, has been MSU’s most experienced player due to offseason attrition. But he missed eight games during non-conference play due to a wrist injury.
A knee injury cut short Steele’s freshman year, and then he played in 33 games with 16 starts last season. This year, he’s played in 13 games with 11 starts, averaging 9.5 points per game and shooting 34.5 percent from the floor.
Steele has struggled to find an offensive rhythm since returning from the wrist injury on Dec. 30. He had 21 points at Georgia on Jan. 12, then 15 at Tennessee two games later.
Since then, however, Steele has averaged 6.4 points and shot 24.4 percent, including 23.8 percent from 3-point range. He had 15 points last time out, in a 93-75 loss to Ole Miss on Wednesday.
His suspension leaves MSU with six available scholarship players. Ray was in a similar situation in November after Steele got hurt and forward Colin Borchert was suspended three games.
Ray hasn’t been afraid to make discipline a big part of his program. Besides the Steele and Borchert suspensions, he booted Shaun Smith and Kristers Zeidaks from the team prior to the season for repeated violations of team rules.
The Bulldogs have also dealt with season-ending injuries to three players, including senior forward Wendell Lewis. That’s forced Ray to use assistant coaches and team managers during practices.
With two walk-ons, State has an eight-man rotation.