Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer told The Commercial Dispatch he's proud of the effort his team gave while competing in the 2019 Summer World University Games in Naples, Italy. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Dispatch File Photo
July 12, 2019 10:03:52 AM
STARKVILLE -- Just days ahead of Mississippi State's trip to Naples, Italy for the 2019 Summer World University Games, MSU women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer made his goal for the tournament clear: To win.
"We made the decision very early on that this is not a foreign tour where you're going over there, playing a bunch of club teams that are not very good and you look like a million dollars and you win by 60 and everybody's happy and everybody plays 10-12 minutes per game and that's it," Schaefer said ahead of the trip. "We made the decision we're going to go over there and compete with the best and try to win it."
Nearly three weeks since that stance in the media room below Humphrey Coliseum, Schaefer's squad heads back to the United States with a silver medal, a 6-1 record and a wealth of experience in tow.
Though the Bulldogs were disappointed in falling short against Australia in the gold medal game 80-72 Wednesday, the youthful group left their mark on the competition.
Roster-wise, the task Schaefer and his staff had at hand was tall. Representing the U.S., MSU had roughly three and a half weeks to prepare for the tournament with six newcomers -- including four freshmen.
Further complicating matters was just two upperclassmen with real playing experience -- juniors Bre'Amber Scott and Andra Espinoza-Hunter -- joined the team in Italy.
Transfers Sidney Cooks and Yemiyah Morris are both juniors by eligibility standards, but neither had spent more than a few weeks with the Bulldogs.
"Quite frankly it's unheard of," Schaefer said of a team as young as his finishing second in the world. "But it's a real credit to these kids and how they've got such a tremendous competitive spirit and fire and I'm just really encouraged by the improvement these kids made throughout their two weeks over here."
With the lack of veterans on a team that will look to replace four starters come November, Schaefer received standout play from his freshman class -- most notably five-star McDonald's All-American Rickea Jackson.
Jackson's offensive pedigree shone throughout the competition, most notably in a 28-point outburst in the semifinals against Japan and a 33-point affair against Chinese Taipei.
Schaefer said Wednesday he believed if there was a MVP for the tournament, she had to have been in the conversation.
The Bulldogs also boasted noteworthy performances from sophomore forward/center Jessika Carter.
Carter notched 28 points and 22 rebounds against Chinese Taipei and earned the game winning and-one in a friendly against Japan with 4.5 seconds left for three of her 24 points in the game.
Schaefer said he was also encouraged by the play of freshman guards JaMya Mingo-Young and Jayla Hemingway -- both of whom will help shoulder the loss of departed point guard Jazzmun Holmes."Jayla and JaMya coming off the bench were my best combo mostly the whole tournament," he said.
As the team begins its journey back to Starkville Thursday, the sting of defeat will persist. Yet with a group comprised of seven freshmen and sophomores, there's plenty to be excited about regarding this young Bulldog basketball team as the season nears.
"What these kids and my staff did to get these kids ready I'm really proud of and I leave here looking to the future knowing we are going to be really, really good," Schaefer said.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
2. MSU women's basketball picked third in SEC COLLEGE SPORTS