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    Blue Ribbon Preview: Mississippi State

    The following excerpt comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the “bible” of college basketball now in its 32nd printing. Edited by SEC Digital Network contributor Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon is a 400-page preview that features full stories on 345 Division I teams. To order a copy, go to or call 877-807-4857.

    Key returning player: Jalen Steele (6-3, JR, SG)

    Steele (8.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg) is the Bulldogs’ leading returning scorer. He’s a game-breaking shooter (.393 3PT, .914 FT), who quickly impressed Ray during offseason shooting drills.

    “He was our best shooter in those drills, and it wasn’t even close,” Ray said. “We’d shoot 100 3s and he’d make 82. He’s a tough kid who didn’t falter and didn’t shy away from our workouts.

    “The challenge for Jalen is people are not going to give him open looks. He’s got to become a better playmaker, not just for himself and others, and put the ball on the floor.”

    Key newcomer: Craig Sword (6-3, FR, G)

    Sword, from Montgomery, Ala., was voted Alabama’s Mr. Basketball last season after leading Carver High School to a state championship. He racked up 33 points, 11 boards and three assists in the title game.

    Because Ray’s first recruit, point guard Jacoby Davis, tore his ACL in summer workouts, Sword, a scorer by trade, may be forced to play some point guard.
    “I wanted to play him more at the two than the one because of his ability to score,” Ray said. “Now he’s going to learn how to distribute as well as score.

    He’s great at getting out in the open court and making things happen. He can also make shots, but he’s a volume shooter, more of a scorer than a shooter.
    “I think he has a chance to be good, but I worry about his decision making at point guard because he’s wired to score.”


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