STARKVILLE — Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele has left the men’s basketball program with the intention to transfer after he graduates following the spring semester.
The program announced via a university release Tuesday afternoon that Steele “has decided not to play his senior season at MSU but will instead focus on graduating in the spring”.
Steele’s mother, Terrara Kimber, told The Dispatch a few hours after the release was published that her son met with MSU coach Rick Ray Sunday to discuss the possibility of a redshirt year.
Kimber said her son had concerns about the medical status of his knee and requested Ray allow him to redshirt the 2013-14 season — a request Kimber says was denied by the MSU coach.
“He wants to play but he says his knee isn’t 100 percent and didn’t feel comfortable trying to rush back again after his second surgery,” Kimber said. “Jalen was given a set of choices by Rick Ray and he chose to not be part of the roster anymore.”
Ray informed Steele’s family Monday over the phone that he would not be part of the program during the upcoming 2013-14 season.
“Coach Ray called me at 1:14 p.m. today to say that the school would be announcing this week Jalen would not be playing basketball for Mississippi State,” Kimber said Tuesday. “We’re obviously not happy with how this was handled but Jalen is trying to get healthy and will play again for somebody.”
Steele becomes the seventh player recruited by former coach Rick Stansbury to leave or be removed from the MSU program since Ray took over the job on April 2, 2012.
Attempts to reach Steele by The Dispatch were unsuccessful and messages were not returned. Steele vented his frustrations over the situation over Twitter after the announcement was made by MSU officials.
“All I wanted was a redshirt and come back stronger next year but they got what they wanted…..” Steele tweeted Tuesday night via his @jalensteele0 account. “Hilarious I’m not done playing just wanted to take a year off to get stronger and be strong for my senior year.”
Steele’s former coach at Fulton High School in Knoville, Tenn., Jody Wright also took to Twitter to defend his former player.
“Lost major respect for Rick Ray and Miss St basketball program,” Wright tweeted via his @Fultonhoops account. “Big diff between being cleared to play and bring able to play at hi(sp) level.”
According to NCAA rules, Steele would be allowed to transfer and play at a Division 1 school immediately if he graduates by this end of this spring semester. NCAA transfer rules state “if the student-athlete wishes to pursue a (graduate) degree program not offered at the original institution, he or she is eligible for a waiver to compete immediately at the new school.”
Steele, suffered two torn anterior cruciate ligaments and a broken wrist during his three years at MSU. In 78 games for the Bulldogs, with 33 starts, Steele averaged eight points and two rebounds while dishing out 72 assists.
“What Jalen has experienced with injuries has been extremely unfortunate,” Ray said via the school release. “He’s battled through a lot of adversity, and it’s important we do everything we can to support and help him earn his degree from Mississippi State.”
Steele suffered his second ACL injury last March in a loss at South Carolina. After the announcement of the injury, Ray was positive about the potential of a having a senior guard with experience back in the program.
“Jalen was coming off back-to-back double-figure scoring games with 10 points against Ole Miss and 17 points at South Carolina before he was injured,” Ray said after the injury. “Jalen has been through this before and handled it like a champ, and I know he will come back again with the same winning results.”
A month before the injury Steele was suspended for three games for a violation of team rules in what Ray referred to as “selfish act” and a “distraction”. Kimber told The Dispatch her son leaving the MSU men’s basketball program had nothing to do with an off-the-court issue.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.