By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Digging up quality basketball recruits this time of year is challenging enough. Doing it with an almost entirely new coaching staff makes it a gargantuan task.
Rick Ray and his Mississippi State assistants have been hammering the pavement for the past month or so trying to round out a signing class that had plenty of room for additions. They added four signees over a 10-day span, most recently point guard Trivante Bloodman on Friday.
MSU’s 2012 signing class is now seven strong, with room for one more.
“This day and time, most all of the guys that are high-major guys or are really good players at this level, most of the time they’re already committed in the summer time going into their senior year,” said assistant Wes Flanigan. “It dwindles the pool a little bit.”
Each assistant has tried to use his particular strengths during this spring signing period, when ends May 16. Flanigan played at Auburn and has coached at UAB, Arkansas-Little Rock and Northwest Mississippi Community College, so he has strong regional ties.
Flanigan was most recently at Nebraska, but he’s known about Memphis Central guard Andre Applewhite for a few years now. Applewhite, who signed on April 26, was playing out of position at point guard for an AAU team in Atlanta, and so Flanigan believes that caused him to get overlooked.
“Tough kid, dad is a high school coach, so he’s been around the game a lot, and physically he’s mature enough to play right away as a freshman,” Flanigan said.
Chris Hollender came to State from Evansville, his alma matter and a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. He also worked at Army.
Hollender understands that different schools require different approaches to recruiting and different types of players.
“Being here for just a few weeks, you’re still trying to figure out exactly what your recruiting philosophy’s going to be,” he said. “I tell everybody, I feel like I’m trying to take a drink out of a fire hose. It’s all coming at you really fast. You’re trying to gain information.
“The recruiting will evolve as we understand what Mississippi State is, and obviously has a very strong reputation athletically nationwide, and that’s going to be a huge key.”
Holdover helps out
Hollender said the lone staff holdover, George Brooks, has been “an unbelievable resource” during the transition and recruiting process. One example is the signing of forward Colin Borchert.
One of Ray’s prime objectives was to immediately beef up an attrition-plagued frontcourt. Borchert played at East Mississippi Community College last season, so Brooks knew all about him.
Ray has touted the quality of all his signees, as one would expect. How good this class actually is remains to be seen.
But Hollender said the coaches are having a ball.
“It is difficult, but at the same time it’s very exciting and very new, and you’re working with a high-character, high-class group of guys, and it makes it a lot of fun.”