Howland hopes year three at MSU will be charm

Ben Howland and Xavian Stapleton
Staff Writer

Everywhere that Ben Howland has been as a head coach, he has had a big year in his third season. Howland will begin his third year at the helm of Mississippi State in just a few months. On Monday, he expressed his hope that the third time will be the charm for him yet again.

“Year three at all three of my stops has been a real good year for us,” Howland said. “Typically when you take over a program, you are taking over a program that hasn’t been having a lot of success currently or they wouldn’t be making a change. So that first year is always a transition year and a tough year. You are bringing in your own recruits. The second year you are typically super young. We were the youngest team in the country last year out of 352 teams.

“The third year, by then, now you have guys that have been in the program for one or two years and you are building.”

Howland had three head coaching stops prior to arriving in Starkville.

At Northern Arizona, he was 9-17 in the first year before improving to 21-7 two years later. At Pittsburgh, Howland led the team to a 13-5 mark in year one and a 29-6 record in year three. At UCLA, Howland started with an 11-17 campaign with the Bruins and by year three, was 32-7.

Howland was 14-17 in his first season with the Bulldogs back in 2015-16. State was 16-16 last year. Can Howland now make his usual big leap forward?

“I sure hope so,” Howland said.

The pieces seem to be in place for Howland to have a good chance at a solid year. Quinndary Weatherspoon is back for his junior season. For his career, Weatherspoon has averaged 14.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Last year, he poured in 16.5 points per game and brought down 5.1 boards per contest despite battling a torn ligament in his wrist. Weatherspoon had surgery for the injury after the season, but he’s back healthy heading into this year according to Howland.

“(Weatherspoon) is cleared to play,” Howland said. “He is out there playing with the guys and is doing a good job. His body is great and he is at 205 pounds.”

Weatherspoon is one of three scholarship juniors for the Bulldogs along with Xavian Stapleton and Aric Holman. There are no scholarship seniors on the squad.

There are highly-touted newcomers that bolster Howland’s hopes.

Weatherspoon’s brother, Nick, comes to MSU as the fifth-best point guard in the nation from last year’s signing class according to ESPN. Keyshawn Feazell was the country’s 27th-best forward according to Scout.

“I am excited about both,” Howland said. “Nick is very athletic, tough, hard-nosed, competitive and he is playing to win.

“I think (Feazell) is going to be a good player. He is just learning the game and he has a great body at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds.”

Howland called Feazell a “one position guy.” Feazell will play strictly the four for MSU. Howland also said he believes Holman will play only the four.

That’s because of the development of Schnider Herard and the fact Abdul Ado will now be added to MSU’s mix at center after sitting out last season due to not being cleared to play by the NCAA.

“I think Schnider has improved, in particular with his jump shot,” Howland said. “He didn’t have that last year.

“With (Ado), everybody on our team respects him. He is always doing the right things on and off the floor.”

The development of Tyson Carter and Lamar Peters also excites Howland. So, too, does the progression of Eli Wright, who Howland said spent the most time in the gym over the summer.

“If you ask any of our players who spent the most time in the gym, it is unanimous, it’s Eli Wright,” Howland said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic and he’s had a good summer.”

For now, all the talk of progression and development is just that. It’s talk. For year three under Howland to once again be a success for him, the wins must come.

MSU will begin its season on Nov. 10. Howland hopes when it’s all wrapped up around March, he’s once again worked his year-three magic.

“I am hoping we have a similar result and positive year for us this year,” Howland said.