Howland likes 'high expectations', MSU men picked fourth in SEC

Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland

For Starkville Daily News

The basketballs are bounding and the shoes are getting laced up.

It’s basketball time in the Southeastern Conference. Everyone is undefeated. Everyone feels great about their chances, and Mississippi State coach Ben Howland is no exception.

“We spent a lot of time working on shooting in the offseason," Howland said. "We needed to get better there, and I think we have. We’re really excited about the coming season. Obviously we expect to field a good team that returns a lot of experience and finished strong.”

Howland spoke Wednesday at SEC Basketball Media Days, after the Bulldogs were picked to finish fourth in the SEC standings by the media, and said his team should be in the mix somewhere in what proves to be a very tough league.

"If you make it through our league, you’ll do fine come tournament time in March," Howland said. "It’s pretty incredible when you look at the quality of the players and coaches.

“It’s good to have high expectations. That’s what we want. Being in the preseason Top 25 in some of the polls is nice for the program, but all it does is put a bullseye right here. You have to prove it every day. We discuss that (with the players). We expect the most out of ourselves. We have to work to earn whatever we get here.

“We have so many players in our league that are going to be NBA players. This league this year top to bottom is going to be the toughest it’s ever been.”

Asked about those higher expectations this season, senior guard and preseason second team All-SEC selection Quinndary Weatherspoon said it doesn't make any difference.

“We’re still trying to go out and work hard," Weatherspoon said. "That’s the expectation. We’ve still got to go out and prove ourselves.

“We’re really not focusing on where they’ve got us ranked. We’ve talked about as a team what we want to do."

Weatherspoon averaged 14.4 points to lead the Bulldogs last year:

Senior post man Aric Holman, who averaged 10.9 points and 6.7 boards last season, said the emphasis so far in practice has been on the defensive end.

"We want to play great defense for the whole 30 seconds (of the shot clock), stay fundamentally sound and just do the little things like rebounding, making that extra pass," Holman said. "(It's) just do the little things that don’t show on the stat sheet.”

Howland expects good things from Holman.

“Aric’s going to have a really good senior season for us," Howland said. "He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

Howland was asked about who has impressed him this year in practice so far and several names came to mind.

“Lamar Peters is playing great," Howland said. "Nick Weatherspoon has battled a couple of injuries. I’ve been excited about Reggie Perry, and Tyson Carter played very well in our scrimmage Saturday. We’ve had a lot of good practice performances from the players in our program this year.

“Those guys are really vested in that jersey of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and are providing great leadership this year. Robert Woodard and DJ Stewart are doing a great job for us. Reggie Perry and Woodard have grown men’s bodies. They have a lot to learn, but they’re doing a phenomenal job as freshmen.

“Reggie’s a really good rebounder, and we needed help there. He’s a good athlete, and he’s smart. He picks things up quickly, and I think he is going to be a good scorer for us, especially around the basket.”