At first the news of Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele choosing not to play this season came as a surprise.
But the more I’ve thought about it, nothing of this nature shocks me any more – especially after covering recruiting for the past five years.
Originally, Steele was never supposed to be in Starkville, having signed with Auburn in 2009.
When the Tigers fired head coach Jeff Lebo, Steele asked for and was granted a release from new coach Tony Barbee.
Two weeks later, former MSU coach Rick Stansbury had Steele’s commitment and signature on a national letter of intent.
On the surface, Steele was an ideal teammate who seemed to just be snake-bitten with injuries. He suffered an ACL tear late into his freshman season just before he was scheduled to play in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn.
Steele finished his rehab ahead of schedule and was back on the floor for all 33 games of his sophomore year, which turned out to be the last season for Stansbury.
When Rick Ray was hired he turned to Steele and Wendell Lewis to be the team leaders, having been the only experienced players returning. That plan derailed after Steele, the team’s leading returning scorer, suffered a fractured wrist in the home opener, missing eight games.
After returning for 11 games, Steele was suspended indefinitely by Ray for a violation of team rules. That suspension cost Steele three conference games. He would suit up five more times before another ACL injury cost him the final three contests.
The carefully worded press release from the university was scrutinized by Steele on Twitter Tuesday night. His account (@Jalensteele0) sent out a series of tweets explaining his desire to redshirt this season and return to the Bulldogs in 2014-15.
The problem with that scenario is that Ray already has four new players committed for that season and a fifth, Fallou Ndoye, eligible to play as well. There simply are not enough scholarships to hand out for that season for Steele to hang around.
It appears Steele will remain at MSU through the spring semester when he will graduate. He will then be free to transfer to the school of his choice to play immediately with one season of eligibility remaining.
Steele’s departure leaves only Lewis and Roquez Johnson as the lone remaining scholarship players from Stansbury’s tenure.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal.