STARKVILLE – When he played at Mississippi State in the 1950s, Bailey Howell and his teammates often had to practice in a Quonset hut, an iron structure with a semicircular roof.
In about 15 months, MSU’s basketball teams will be practicing in something a little larger and a whole lot spiffier.
At Humphrey Coliseum, where Howell’s No. 52 hangs from the rafters, officials announced on Monday specifics about the basketball practice facility that they’ve been planning. Work on the 57,611-square-foot, $11.2 million structure will start today on the south side of Humphrey Coliseum.
“The Hump is getting a front door,” said Tupelo’s Buzzy Mize, the permanent director of the Henry Mize Foundation, which is named after his late uncle.
The foundation made a “lead gift” of $4 million – all up front – and holds naming rights. State has also received a $2 million commitment from alumnus Richard Adkerson.
Mize and MSU began discussing the project about three years ago, and about 18 months ago, athletics director Greg Byrne – then head of the Bulldog Club – men’s coach Rick Stansbury, women’s coach Sharon Fanning, and others toured several SEC practice facilities.
“It’s going to be a great working facility literally every day of the year,” Byrne said.
It will also help solve the problems Stansbury and Fanning have faced over the years in finding enough court time. On Monday morning, the men’s team stepped on the refurbished floor of The Hump for the first time since March.
“A lot of schools want these; we’re a school that needs this in a desperate way,” Stansbury said.
Players often have to get in their offseason work at the Sanderson Center – if it isn’t full with regular students playing basketball, volleyball or badminton. Former Bulldog Ben Hansbrough claimed that a reason he transferred after the 2007-08 season was because he had nowhere to practice in the summer.
“Gym rats are really gonna benefit from it,” said Howell, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
So will former players, who will be welcome to use the facility whenever they need. There will be plenty of room for them.
The facility will hold two college regulation-size courts, plus four high school-size courts, for 23,500 square feet of floor space; a weightroom; a training room; coaches’ offices; and will rest on top of an 84-car parking garage.
Of the $11.2 million cost, MSU has accounted for roughly $10 million – $8 million from donations and about $200,000 per year for the next 10 years from courtside seating revenue. The balance will be raised or will come from the Bulldog Club’s unrestricted money.
JESCO, of Tupelo and Fulton, is the general contractor.
Howell said old McCarthy Gym was top notch in its day, so he knows the value of attractive digs.
“You just can’t really say how much that’s going to enhance recruiting,” he said. “To be able to have that kind of facility, state-of-the-art, first class, it tells a recruit how important basketball is here at Mississippi State.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal