STARKVILLE — Rick Ray isn’t interested in letting Mississippi State
University men’s basketball fans get too comfortable with the make-up of his first schedule.
Ray isn’t satisfied with the way it’s constructed, but the timing of his hire in March didn’t allow him to build it like he would have wanted.
In future schedules, don’t expect MSU to open a season on the road. The first-time Division I head coach isn’t thrilled with the idea of his predecessor, Rick Stansbury, who retired in March, agreeing to open Troy University’s new 6,000-seat arena.
“If I had my say so, I would’ve wanted to play a home game first and then go play a road game, but it was already there and we couldn’t do anything about it,” Ray said.
MSU will play only five non-conference games at Humphrey Coliseum in 2012. Ray said this week that is the case because of previously arranged contracts, the team’s participation in the 2012 Maui Invitational, and MSU play at Providence College in the Southeastern Conference-Big East Challenge.
“I think the most important thing is the Maui Invitational,” Ray said. “I think any young man who grows up watching college basketball grows up dreaming wanting to play out in Maui. Going out and playing at Providence, that will be a good experience and a difficult task cause they have good guard play. Then going out and playing Loyola (of Chicago), I thought that was an important game in the history of Mississippi State.”
When asked what he’ll do with future schedules, Ray made the recruiting pitch Thursday, saying he’ll take MSU to a vacation-style locale every season for a non-conference tournament.
“One thing is I always want to take our guys to a nice place,” Ray said. “I think we always want to play in an exempt tournament.”
The second objective will be to get MSU on national television. One way to do that is to bring a national power to Humphrey Coliseum every year.
“We want to get a BCS school here every year,” Ray said. “Whether it be with the SEC-Big East Challenge or us going out and scheduling a home-and-home with somebody else, you don’t have a lot of flexibility now playing 18 SEC games. We want to start a series next year on the road with a Bowl Championship Series.”
The league slate will feature home-and-home games against the University of Mississippi, the University of Florida, LSU, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Alabama. MSU will play one game against the remaining eight league foes.
The new 18-game SEC schedule, voted in in the offseason at the spring meetings in Destin, Fla., begins with MSU playing host to South Carolina and new coach Frank Martin.
“If you are in a BCS conference there is no such thing as a favorable schedule,” Ray said. “The big positive is we play all of our SEC games on Wednesday and Saturday, so it sets our players up for a great routine during the season, very similar to a football schedule.”
Ware’s weight still a concern for coaches
MSU four-star recruit Gavin Ware showed up in July for the second semester of summer school with a similar body type he had in preseasons of his high school career.
Unfortunately, that means the former Starkville High School standout and The Dispatch’s Large Schools Player of the Year showed up out of shape in Ray’s eyes.
Ray said Thursday that Ware, who has made a habit of playing his way into shape during the high school season, weighed in this summer at an unacceptable 290 pounds.
Ware had told The Dispatch in June he weighed around 245-250 pounds but knew he’d struggled in the past with his weight in the preseason.
“The key to becoming better at anything you do is being willing to put in the work,” Ware said. “I want everybody to know and all the kids that look up to me to understand that hard work will get you far in this world, not just basketball.”
Ray said Thursday the freshman backup center, who is expected to get playing time behind senior Wendell Lewis, has been working with MSU’s strength and conditioning staff and has lost nearly 20 pounds.
“He’s down to 273 (pounds),” Ray said. “We would ultimately like to see him down to 260 pounds, and that is something that will be ideal for him. The key for him is keeping him at that weight in the offseason.”
Ray said strength coach Richard Akins will monitor Ware’s eating habits and conditioning in attempt to regulate his weight.
“As far as I’ve been told he does a really good job of keeping the weight off during the season, but it’s the offseason when he goes and gets some of grandma’s cooking or to Waffle House,” Ray said.
Thomas still working to get cleared
Ray said Thursday that freshman wing player Fred Thomas is still working to become academically eligible for the 2012-13 season.
The three-star prospect from Jim Hill High School in Jackson, who Stansbury signed last year in the early period, will have to wait for the results from summer school to determine his eligibility.
“As far as our other guys at Mississippi State, there are not academic issues,” Ray said.
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