Mississippi State Basketball: Howland to Lead Mix of Returning Players, Transfers, and Freshmen in Year Six

Mississippi State Basketball: Retooled Bulldog Roster to Take the Court for Howland

Mississippi State Basketball Head Coach Ben Howland is ready to begin his sixth year in Starkville. He will do it without Bulldog legacies, Reggie Perry and Robert Woodard. Howland will lead a retooled roster in year six.

Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard II, and Nick Weatherspoon declared for the 2020 NBA Draft, and I expect all to earn a paycheck putting the ball in the hoop either in the NBA, the G-Leauge, or overseas. Tyson Carter also has departed as his eligibility has expired.

The Bulldog roster lost five players to transfer as Elias King, Devin Butts, Prince Oduro, EJ Datcher, and Keshawn Feazell all left the program. In my opinion, this is the epitome of a rebuilding year with all of the newcomers to the roster. Let’s take a look at the players that will take the court for Howland in year six and their potential roles.

The Returning Lettermen

Mississippi State Basketball

FAYETTEVILLE, AR – FEBRUARY 15: D.J. Stewart #3 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs plays defense during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on February 15, 2020, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Bulldogs defeated the Razorbacks 78-77. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The Bulldogs return six players from last year’s active roster, with only three playing quality minutes last year. Abdul Ado flirted with declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft but elected to return for his senior season. Losing Ado would have been a blow as he is a strong defensive presence in the post and was last year’s leading shot-blocker and second-leading rebounder behind Perry.

D. J. Stewart Jr. is the returning leading scorer, and I look for him to lead this year’s team in that statistic. Stewart was part of the class with Perry and Woodard, and now it is his turn to take the reigns and be the leader the Bulldogs need this season.

Stewart averaged 8.5 points a game while playing  29 minutes per contest. With such an inexperienced roster, Stewart must have a breakout season. Also, walk-on Andrew Junkin is a big body looking for playing time in his sophomore season.

Iverson Molinar, Quinton Post, and Issac Stansbury return as the holdovers from the 2019 signing class. Out of the three, Molinar is the only one I expect to be a quality contributor for the 20-21 season. Molinar averaged 5.9 points, and he will be the starting point guard this season. He was listed on Jon Rothstein’s under the radar players for the 20-21 season.

The Transfers

Mississippi State Basketball

Louisiana Tech’s Jacolby Pemberton (11) attempts to make a lay-up against Western Kentucky’s Tolu Smith (00)

Howland used the transfer portal to bring in immediate reinforcements with the defections the Bulldog roster suffered. Tolu Smith was on the roster last year but had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules.

The Bulldogs added two new transfers in graduate transfer Jalen Johnson 6-6 F (Saint Louis & Louisiana-Lafayette) and Javian Davis, 6-9 F,  who was granted a waiver (Alabama). I expect both of them to provide depth off the bench.

Tolu Smith decided to come home to the Magnolia State after spending his freshman season at Western Kentucky playing for former Bulldog coach Rick Stansbury. He played in 34 games and averaged 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. Smith, a  6-10 post player, will be the new starting power forward for the Bulldogs. Smith was also listed on Jon Rothstein’s under radar transfers for the 20-21 season.

Johnson will spend his senior year in Maroon and White, as this is his third school. Johnson was a solid player last year for the Cajuns’ averaging 15 points and 6.6 rebounds. His addition to the roster provides depth even though it is only for one season.

Davis is a former 4-star recruit out of Canton High. He played in 31 games and started 14 while averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds at Alabama. His size and his starting experience will certainly be an asset to this very young team.

The Freshmen

Mississippi State Basketball

Forest Hill’s Keondre Montgomery (5) shoots against Starkville High

Ben Howland signed a big class of six, including a walk-on for this season. He had no choice with all of the players transferring. There is a lot of talent and some immediate contributors in this class.

The highest-rated signee is 4-star Deivon Smith, a cat-quick point guard out of Grayson (Loganville, GA). Smith was close to averaging a triple-double in highschool with these stats, 17points, 8.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.5 steals. Smith will be a headache for opposing teams, if not this year, definitely in the future.

Howland also added a quartet of 3-star forwards with three of the young men hailing from Mississippi. They all have a myriad of talents to contribute as freshmen this year. Montgomery, Fountain, and Matthews were selected to the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen, and they were the top three players in the state in that order.

Keondre Montgomery’s strength will be his scoring, most importantly his three-point shooting, like his cousin, former Bulldog Fred Thomas. Derek Fountain is a long and lean forward with scoring ability but will need to add weight before becoming a quality contributor in the SEC. Cameron Matthews has the most SEC-ready body out of the Mississippi trio. Matthews can score, pass, rebound, defend, and has a knack for blocking shots.

Wrapping up the signing class is Anderson Garcia and walk-on, Reggie Morris. Anderson is a 3-star out of Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga, TN), and he averaged nearly a double-double his senior year. Reggie Brooks is out of Grandview, MO, where he played for his father.

SEC Preseason Poll Pick

The SEC released its predicted order of finish. The Bulldogs were picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC at #12. I understand why the Bulldogs were picked here.  I can’t entirely disagree because the last time I got excited and said the Bulldogs would win the SEC was during Malik Newman’s freshman season. We all know how that season ended for the Bulldogs.

I do feel like there is a collection of talent that, if coached up, can outplay that gruesome #12 preseason pick. Howland is a final four coach, and this season, with all of the new faces, he will have to put on a coaching clinic if the Bulldogs are to have success this season.

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