By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Vic Schaefer is bringing a lot of change to Mississippi State women’s basketball. The hard part for him won’t be so much implementing the change as awaiting its results.
Schaefer’s approach differs greatly from that of his predecessor, Sharon Fanning-Otis, who retired after 17 years at MSU. Coming from a Texas Aamp&M program that won the 2011 NCAA title, Schaefer is a veteran coach who has some well-defined ideas about what will work in Starkville.
“I talked to my staff about this, because I tell them to remind me every day it’s a process, and I have to slow down and remind myself of that every day,” Schaefer said. “I see what can be done and what’s going to happen here, but it is a process, and I have to remind myself of that.”
A big part of the process includes bringing MSU into the 21st century, especially in recruiting. Schaefer said the previous regime’s approach to that was “archaic” and leaned too heavily on junior college players. He said he wants to establish a recruiting database and a plan for recruiting well both in Mississippi and outside the state, including in Texas.
“I think that’s been the big challenge for me is just knowing that we’ve got some things that we need to change and do a little differently, because you know what? They’re doing them that way to the left of me, to the right of me, to the south of me, and to the north of me,” Schaefer said. “We need to be doing it that way, too.”
MSU will need its recruiting approach to have an immediate effect. The core of next year’s team will be one senior (Darriel Gaynor) and five sophomores, including 6-foot-4 center Martha Alwal, who made the SEC all-freshman team.
The Lady Bulldogs averaged 56.8 points per game last season, including 49.8 points in SEC play. Not much of that limited offense returns. Schaefer is known for his defensive acumen, but he said finding scorers is a high priority.
“We usually recruit offense and teach them how to play defense,” he said. “We’ve got 12 points a game coming back, you’re doggone right I’m looking for somebody that can score.”
Schaefer doesn’t like the term “rebuilding,” and some recent success gives him confidence that MSU can be a consistently winning program. The Lady Bulldogs reached the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 round in 2010 before falling off the past two years.
“I’ve said this at every place I’ve stopped on the Our State Tour, I’m not hired to bring y’all a top-25 basketball team. I’m hired to bring you a top-10 program,” Schaefer said. “That’s my goal. That’s what we did where I came from; it’s the only blueprint I have.”