February 25, 2013

Unique circumstances for Ray, Bulldogs

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In December, Mississippi State was deemed the worst major conference men's basketball team in the country.

And that was before the Bulldogs had lost 12-straight conference games.

But the circumstances surrounding MSU's dismal season have been far from ordinary for first year head coach Rick Ray.

The Bulldogs (7-19, 2-12) have spent the majority of the season with only six scholarship players available for games due to season-ending injuries and off the court suspensions.

"I think it's fair to say nobody in the country has been through what we've been through this season both on and off the court," Ray said. "Us being decimated by the numbers is a unique situation. What you have to do in my situation is try to give our guys ways to win. I think the players appreciate that and also understand they have to get better individually and as a team regardless of the situation."

At the conclusion of the 2011-12 season under Rick Stansbury both Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney left a year early to turn pro. There were also the transfers of wing Rodney Hood to Duke and point guard DeVille Smith to Southwest (Miss.) Community College following their freshman year.

Ray was hired on April 1, 2012 and lost four more scholarship players before ever coaching in his first game. Ray had to dismiss juniors Shaun Smith and Kristers Zeidaks from the team for a violation of team rules in September.

Ray also lost freshmen guards Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite to ACL tears during preseason work, ending their seasons before they even began.

To make matters worse, Ray also lost his two most experienced returning players - Jalen Steele and Wendell Lewis for an extended amount of time. Steele missed eight games with a fractured wrist and three more due to a suspension. Lewis has been out indefinitely since Dec. 12 with a fractured patella.

Sophomore forward Roquez Johnson missed the season opener due to a concussion and has missed the past two games after being indefinitely suspended for a violation of team rules. Junior college transfer Colin Borchert missed all three games of the Maui Invitational due to a suspension as well.

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