STARKVILLE — Junior guard Phil Turner has a reason to feel like one of the elder statesmen of the Mississippi State basketball team.
Turner, who turns 22 today, is considered one of the veterans on the 2009-10 squad.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury knows how valuable experience is to his team, and said Turner has as much as anyone. He said Turner has benefited from a redshirt season.
“He”s a senior age-wise,” Stansbury said Monday at the team”s media day. “Most players don”t see the benefit of redshirting, but now Phil can look back and see how fortunate he is by redshirting a year. He had a lot of success last year, and it”s only going to make him better.”
After averaging four points and 2.8 rebounds per game in his redshirt freshman season, Turner averaged 8.5 points and 5.5 boards per outing as a sophomore.
In the last 90 seconds of last year”s Southeastern Conference tournament finals against Tennessee, Turner scored seven points to help the Bulldogs win the title.
He wants to pick up where he left off last season.
Turner said he improved his strength and polished his game in the offseason in an attempt to become a better player.
With seniors Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart and fellow juniors Kodi Augustus, Elgin Bailey, Riley Benock, Brandon Bolen, and Ravern Johnson, Turner is confident in what MSU can do this season.
“When you play with guys as many years as we”ve played together, things come together better,” Turner said. “We expect a lot more out of ourselves than we did.”
Turner said the younger players should come in and follow their lead.
“The older guys have taken to coach Stansbury”s philosophy,” Turner said. “(The newcomers need) to expect what”s expected from everybody else. They don”t have a choice than to buy into what the team is buying into. It”s just what they”re thrown into.”
Turner showed the toughness to play inside last season and had 123 rebounds in the last 15 games. He had 10 or more rebounds in five games.
Although willing to play wherever needed, Turner hopes freshmen post players John Riek and Renardo Sidney are available soon so he won”t have to spend so much time in the paint. Riek will sit out the first nine games this season due to an NCAA-mandated suspension, while the NCAA has yet to clear Sidney while it investigates his amateur status.
Stansbury would prefer to have Turner in the backcourt. On Saturday, Turner was used as a backup point guard in the Bulldogs” two scrimmages.
MSU will play host to Oklahoma City at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first of two exhibition games at Humphrey Coliseum.