April 13, 2018 10:03:11 AM
STARKVILLE -- The transition from strong season to finish to offseason hype is well underway.
The Mississippi State men's basketball program has exactly that on its hands as it moves into the offseason, which coach Ben Howland previewed in a year-end press conference Thursday. Before it, Howland spoke to The Dispatch about his excitement for the offseason and the 2018-19 season to follow it.
"We're excited about the offseason," Howland said. "The fact that we have a lot of experience, assuming guys come back for the most part, we have a team of guys that return from a solid, successful season that won 25 games, finished strong and had a strong showing in conference with some good wins."
The national media has responded to MSU's 25-12 campaign, 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference, that concluded with a run to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) semifinals. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports had MSU ranked 15th in his early top 25 for next season; Jon Rothstein had MSU 18th, the Associated Press 20th and Sporting News 21st.
Howland said freshman forward KeyShawn Feazell had surgery on his foot to remove a loose os trigonum bone and will be on crutches for a few weeks. He will miss the team's workouts for the final weeks of the semester, but the program anticipates his involvement in the summer plan.
How many players are in that summer plan remains to be determined. Junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and sophomore guard Lamar Peters remain in the NBA Draft pool as potential early entrants but neither have hired an agent, thus could return to school if they so chose. Howland said junior forward Aric Holman could join them; he has until the April 22 deadline to file his paperwork to declare. All early entrants have until May 30 to withdraw their names if they desire to remain eligible for their college teams.
"Any one of our players that can be drafted in the first round, after going through the process, needs to stay (in the draft), needs to be drafted. That's guaranteed money," Howland said. "The key is getting information that's the correct information, the correct feedback and my job is to help them get that information."
Freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon was among them, but announced earlier this week his intent to withdraw his name and return to MSU.
Howland told The Dispatch the draft process for Quinndary Weatherspoon and Peters has yet to start; they are still awaiting feedback from the league's advisory board on where they project they might get drafted before they go forward with individual workouts or potential NBA Combine invites.
Howland said he expects all four of MSU's current signees to enroll in school and join the team in June: guard DJ Stewart and forwards Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard and Jethro Tshisumpa, who joined the fold Wednesday.
Stewart and Woodard are the in-state products. Woodard comes from Columbus High School after helping the Falcons win the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A state championship this season; Benoit, 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, comes from Riverside High School in Benoit. Woodard and Stewart were ranked as the top two prospects in the state by 247 Sports. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Tshisumpa comes from San Jacinto College in Texas and Perry comes from Thomasville, Georgia, at 6-foot-9, 200 pounds.
It's possible there could be one more. Even if Quinndary Weatherspoon and Peters return to the team, MSU will have just 12 of its 13 scholarships used.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
3. Players of Week: Crawford, Cork help West Lowndes start region win streak HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. MSU women's basketball team set to open practice Thursday COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Loss to Kentucky reveals issues for MSU LOCAL COLUMNS