By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Jalen Steele and Mississippi State have caught another tough break.
Steele, a junior guard, is out for the season after suffering the second major knee injury of his career. MSU announced on Thursday that Steele tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee, an injury he suffered the previous night against South Carolina.
“I got to start from the bottom again,” Steele wrote on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon.
Steele will have surgery sometime after MSU’s spring break, which begins this weekend.
Two years ago, the Knoxville native tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee. That happened late in the season, and he was not 100 percent healthy by the time the 2011-12 season began.
He averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore, starting 16 of 33 games. Due to heavy offseason attrition, including the dismissal of two players, Steele was suddenly one of the more experienced Bulldogs for first-year coach Rick Ray this season.
Then he missed eight games early in the season after suffering a fractured wrist, and Steele was suspended for three games last month for a violation of team rules.
He’s played in 18 games with 11 starts, averaging 10.1 points while shooting 33.9 percent from the floor, including 32.9 percent from 3-point range.
Words of support
“I feel for Jalen because he was starting to find his way in our offense and his role on our team after missing eight games with his wrist injury earlier in the season,” Ray said on his Twitter page. “Jalen has been through this before and handled it like a champ, and I know that he will come back again with the same winning results.”
Since returning from his suspension, Steele had come off the bench. He struggled to find his shot but was having a good game against South Carolina, scoring 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting and sparking a second-half rally.
Steele was hurt with 5 minutes, 5 seconds left in the game when his planted on his right foot, and the knee buckled.
MSU (8-21, 3-14 SEC) lost the game, 79-72. It closes out the regular season Saturday against Auburn, then will play in the SEC Tournament next week.
It’s been a rough season for the Bulldogs, who had already lost three other players to season-ending injuries. MSU is again down to six available scholarship players. It’s been that low before because of injuries and suspensions.
State lost 13 consecutive games, one shy of the school record, before beating rival Ole Miss on Saturday.