MSU coach Rick Ray took his turn on the SEC coaches teleconference this morning. His Bulldogs (5-7) open SEC play Wednesday at home versus South Carolina (10-3). As you can tell by the third question, some folks are still trying to get to know Ray’s team, which has been beset by injuries.
We’ll be speaking with Ray again this afternoon at his press conference. Until then, here’s the full transcript of his phone chat.
We had the bad loss at home to Alabama A&M, and I told our guys we had to get over the public embarrassment of that loss. Because the fact of the matter was that I thought the first 15 minutes of that ballgame we had played better than we had all season long. The unfortunate part of the the result of that, which was a loss, everybody feels like outside the program that we did not get better. But the semester break has been key for us as far as our individual player development and our team getting better. I felt that all came to fruition in our game against New Orleans when we went out and played better than we did that first 15 minutes against Alabama A&M. We’re headed in the right direction as far as improvement as a ball club and improvement individually as we start SEC play.
Similarities between what you and South Carolina’s Frank Martin are trying to do in rebuilding programs:
I think the initial impression is just that we’re both first-year coaches at our particular programs. The difference is he obviously has a little more depth than I have, and he has experience as far as being a head coach. Some of the things we’re trying to do defensively as far as being aggressive, being physical on the defensive end, obviously we have those similarities. Other than that, I would say those are the things I would point to.
How many scholarship players do you have available, and what’s the injury situation?
We’re all the way up to a booming seven scholarship players. We were playing with six scholarship guys for a while, but having Jalen Steele back puts us at a full roster of seven scholarship players. We have two walk-ons; one walk-on plays significant minutes for us, the other walk-on does not. It’s been tough as far as our practice situation. We haven’t had a chance to get better in practice a lot because we’re playing against managers and coaches. Sometimes it’s hard to hold our guys accountable as far as what we want to do on the court.
I just hearken back to when we were getting ready to go play out in Maui. I thought our team was really improving but some of the things that we were having success in at practice was a lot different than when we would go play the length and athleticism of North Carolina and Texas. The practice situation has been hard but we figured out ways to make that better, but it’s been tough. The hardest thing we have right now is holding guys accountable on the court. I’ve been able to do that off the court, but on the court with us having a limited roster of guys that want to play, so some of these guys we have that are inexperienced freshmen, they have to go out and play continually while making mistakes. To our guys’ credit, they haven’t been defined and try to do some of the things I’d like them to do. They make inexperienced, freshman mistakes that we’ve got to play out in a game rather than sub them out.
One more point, too. As I was looking at our coming back and it’s playing time and things like that and points. When we had Jalen Steele, along with Wendell Lewis, we had a grand total of 1 point of experience coming back — Roquez Johnson hit a free throw in a game (last season). Then we had a grand total of 70 minutes of experience coming back when playing with that roster with six guys, and Jalen and Wendell being out. There may be a team that’s younger than us in the nation, but there’s no team that’s more inexperienced than us in the nation.
On facing managers and trainers in practice:
Sometimes the hardest thing is they have to go out and do that in a game and for the fans, and to let them understand. We do, I think, a really good job of bringing guys in and showing them, ‘Hey, the reason you have success on this play here, particularly against this manager or a coach, and making sure those guys try to understand that.’ Kids, it’s hard sometimes. They have to learn through experience and them having a bad experience make them understand things as far as what we’re talking about at film session and not being able to do that in a real game. our guys are coming in and they’re learning and trying to fix things. That’s the thing I’m really happy about, the fact that our guys are continually trying to get better. I feel like we’re getting ready to turn the corner here with the way we’ve played here against Alabama A&M in those first 15 minutes and against, obviously, New Orleans.