By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Rick Ray is a few weeks away from wrapping up his second season at Mississippi State.
During that time the first-time head coach has had an ongoing struggle to secure a full roster. Ray has dressed as few as six scholarship players and currently has eight available.
The lack of depth contributed to the Bulldogs’ 13-game losing streak last year and has also been a factor in their current seven-game skid.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of issues personnel-wise coming into the program,” Ray said. “That’s not anything to feel sorry for me. I just think it’s lost upon people sometimes that we’ve played two years here with six, seven and eight scholarship guys. I feel real confident about where we’re going or where we will be once we get or full allotment of 13 scholarship players.”
Ray has two of his scholarships allocated to 6-foot-11 freshman Fallou Ndoye and junior forward Travis Daniels. Ndoye is ineligible to play until next season while Daniels did not arrive until January after transferring in from junior college and is redshirting.
MSU is playing with five less scholarship players than is allotted by the NCAA and that hurts from a substitution standpoint.
“It’s hard to hold guys accountable for their errors on the court because we don’t have a substitution pattern,” Ray said. “More so than anything, we don’t have competition for those minutes. I like where we’re going but I’m frustrated because we’re losing some ball games. But we’ve got to find a way to continue to get better as the season goes along. Our guys have got to figure out a way to get some confidence back in themselves.”
Ray’s plan to increase his numbers is on the recruiting trail.
The Bulldogs signed three players in the fall and will add a talented walk-on in order to help bolster its roster next season. Shooting guard Maurice Dunlap joined center Oliver Black and wing Demetrius Houston as State’s 2014 signees.
All-three signees are rated as three-star prospects by Rivals.com as is two-sport standout Elijah Staley. The 6-foot-7, 213-pounder will walk onto the team once his quarterback duties are over for Dan Mullen.
Ray also has three players already committed for 2015 in Georgia guards Tookie Brown and Dante Scott along with Montgomery, Ala., forward Joseph Struggs.
“People have a belief in what we’re doing and what we’re selling here,” Ray said. “I think when recruits get on our campus and see how we work with our kids, our facilities and what we have to offer it’s an easy sell. Obviously though if you continue to lose at this rate then it will be a problem. But right now people still believe in what we’re doing and once we get all the able bodies we’ll be just fine.”