STARKVILLE — For the first time this year, Iverson Molinar will suit up for the Mississippi State men’s basketball team. The 6-foot-3 guard will make his season debut in the team’s 7 p.m. contest against North Texas Friday at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU coach Ben Howland confirmed Molinar missed the team’s first three games after testing positive for COVID-19, but noted the sophomore guard was asymptomatic. After getting bloodwork done Tuesday, Molinar participated in half of the Bulldogs’ practice Wednesday and for a majority of the team’s workout on Thursday.
While freshman guard Deivon Smith is expected to make his fourth straight start at point guard, Howland said Molinar will play a significant amount of minutes, probably between 25-30.
In his freshman season, Molinar averaged nearly six points per contest and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc.
“He looked really good for a guy had not done anything in 10 days. It was kind of amazing but that is the kind of athlete he is,” Howland told reporters Thursday. “He adds one of our top three scorers back to the lineup. Not only that but experience to the backcourt, which we are lacking without him. Even though his experience is lacking at 15 minutes a game (last year), he made one of the biggest jumps in improvements between his freshman and sophomore year that I’ve seen in about 10-12 years. I think he is really going to be good for us this year and I think he is going to have a great year.”
The sixth-year MSU coach mentioned Molinar was the best conditioned athlete on the team stamina-wise before testing positive and said his addition to the lineup should bolster the Bulldogs’ perimeter shooting.
“He’s great at attacking the basket, great on the pull-ups off the dribble and then creating and jumping back,” Howland said. “He has a 46-inch vertical, running vertical. He is really good at the line and he gets fouled a lot. There’s no question he will be one of our top three scorers when the dust settles at the end of the year.”
Post playing a larger role for the Bulldogs
Howland said when his rotation is finalized, he hopes to play nine players consistently. One of those athletes he may count on is 7-foot forward Quinten Post. Post, who played 21 total minutes in 2019-2020, stayed on the floor for a career-high 16 minutes Monday in MSU’s 68-51 victory over Texas State. The sophomore forward from the Netherlands scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds while attempting four 3-pointers. Post was on the court for a long duration largely because of the foul trouble surrounding starting center Abdul Ado, but he made the most of his playing time.
“It really helped that I was out there longer than a few minutes,” Post said of his increased playing time after Monday’s victory. “In the second half, I think things clicked a little more offensively. I felt good.”
Scouting North Texas
In their second home contest of the season, the Bulldogs (1-2) will have to contend with a North Texas team that went 20-11 overall and won Conference USA with a 14-4 record in conference play in the 2019-2020 season. Conference USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet, who averaged 14.6 points per contest a season ago, will be a focal point for the MSU defense. In two games this season, North Texas is 1-1 after dismantling Mississippi Valley State 116-62 and dropping a 15-point contest to Arkansas.
“They are going to be a tough game for us and they are very well-coached,” Howland said. “They are very patient, offensively, and it is a grind-it-out affair. They averaged 50 or so shots a game last year and play very good defense, really good half-court man-to-man. They will switch ball screens one through five and they are physical, strong and quick. It is a very difficult opponent.”
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.