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Howland Looking for Big Minutes From Freshmen Thursday

With the Mississippi State Men's basketball team down a few key contributors to start the season, head coach Ben Howland is looking to the team's youth for big minutes.

The Mississippi State men’s basketball season officially tips off this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against the University of North Alabama Lions. The Lions compete in the ASUN conference against the likes of Florida Gulf Coast, Liberty, Jacksonville State, and Lipscomb, where they finished 5th last season with an 8-8 record.

This is all to say that MSU will start their season off against a team that bested Florida Gulf Coast this past season and only lost by a few points to a Liberty team that handled Mississippi State quite well earlier last year. These Lions are no cubs, they bring experience to the table.

What, then, does Mississippi State bring to the table to start off the 2021-22 season? A whole boatload of new talent -- that’s what.

Headlining that talent is returning junior point guard Iverson Molinar, transfer guard Rocket Watts, transfer center Garrison Brooks, returning power forward Tolu Smith, and transfer small forward D.J. Jeffries.

Watts and Smith, however, will not be taking the floor in the season opener, as both players are still rehabbing injuries from the offseason. According to head coach Ben Howland, this opens up the floor for some fresh, young faces to receive some important minutes early on this season.

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“In particular our two freshmen (Cameron Carter and Alden Applewhite), they’re going to be playing some big minutes for us here early in the season,” said Howland in a press conference Monday. ”We’re going to need everybody, all hands on deck, to do a really good job playing (well) at both ends of the floor.”

Coach Howland also added that he already has his starting lineup, but didn’t want to tell reporters as to not “show his hand” ahead of the opener. Well played, coach.

Either way, the Bulldogs will tip off with a less than ideal roster, but still neck-deep in talent. Garrison Brooks, former ACC most improved player of the year, will look to make his debut in the maroon and white, along with Memphis transfer and Olive Branch native D.J. Jeffries, who was already recruited heavily out of high school by Howland and his staff.

One of the lesser-known faces on the roster, though, is that of Shakeel Moore, a transfer guard from NC State, where he averaged 6.8 points per game on an average of about 19 minutes and 44% from the field. If Moore can make that all-important leap from freshman to sophomore year that Howland is famous for preaching, Moore could prove to be an integral part of the rotation even when the full roster is back healthy.

Only time will tell, and that time is approaching quickly, as MSU looks to keep up their momentum as a program Wednesday against the Lions.