"I was pretty shocked, man," said Fred Thomas, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Jackson Jim Hill. "I really liked Stansbury. He's got a great personality. He's a nice guy, and I liked the way he carried himself and how he let his team play."
Thomas is part of a five-man 2012 signing class that includes Josh Gray (Humble, Texas), P.J. Hardwick (Humble, Texas), Craig Sword (Montgomery, Ala.) and Gavin Ware (Starkville). MSU is hoping that whoever is hired as the next coach can keep this class together.
Thomas said once a new coach is hired, he wants to talk with him and then "make my decision" on sticking with State.
Of course, deciding to go elsewhere involves getting a release from one's scholarship. It's common practice for schools to grant those releases after a coaching change.
Gray, a 6-foot point guard, has asked to be released from his scholarship so he can look at other programs, according to Bulldawgs247.com.
Thomas, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer for Jim Hill in the Class 6A state title game this season, said he likes a coach that "lets his guys play. Just let them play and grind it out. Even when they mess up, still give them a chance to play."
Like Thomas, Ware will wait and see who the coach is before moving forward. He'll talk with his father, Calvin, and Starkville High coach Greg Carter, who is a former MSU player. Ware is also set to sit down with Stansbury soon and discuss the situation.
"We get a new coach, and (if) I'm not really feeling the coaching staff, that might halt my decision a little bit," Ware said.
Hardwick, a 5-10 point guard, said, "I signed to the Bulldogs, and I believe in loyalty and trust. I'm blessed to be in this position and plan on making the most of it."
Keeping this class together is vitally important for MSU, which loses guards Dee Bost and Brian Bryant to graduation, and could lose Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney to the pro ranks. The freshman class could play a big role next season.
Thomas and Ware both believe keeping the class together is important, and if that happens, they're ready to carry a big load.
"Us as a young group, we'll have to go hard, play hard, play together," Thomas said. "But I believe we can do it."