Last season was exciting for Mississippi State basketball, with both the men’s and women’s teams reaching the NCAA Tournament under first-year head coaches. Now as they look to build off that success, how are the programs reloading their rosters?
The 2022-2023 season was a promising one for Mississippi State basketball. First-year coaches Chris Jans and Sam Purcell took their respective programs to their first NCAA Tournament appearances since 2019. And now, both coaches are making the moves necessary in the transfer portal to assure that success wasn’t short-lived.
With multiple starters and bench players moving on, women’s coach Sam Purcell had to be aggressive in the transfer portal. And so far, he’s made the most of it, with three top-20 transfers joining the program.
The first major splash came with the addition of former Seton Hall guard Lauren Park-Lane, a three-time first-team All-Big East selection, who averaged 20.8 points and 6.3 assists per game in 2022-2023.
Purcell kept up the momentum by beating out his former team in Louisville for DePaul transfer Darionne Rogers. Another All-Big East guard, Rogers averaged 16.8 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds last season. Between Rogers, Park-Lane, and returning double-digit scorer JerKaila Jordan, the Bulldogs will have plenty of fire-power in their backcourt.
MSU added talent to its frontcourt as well with a player already familiar to the SEC. Former Arkansas forward Erynn Barnum made the in-conference transfer to Mississippi State after leading the Hogs with 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. These transfers, along with JerKaila Jordan and leading-scorer Jessika Carter, give women’s basketball a truly formidable lineup for next season.
Prior to the past few days, portal news had largely been quiet for MSU men’s basketball. With much of last season’s roster returning, Chris Jans has been much more selective with filling out his final roster spots. But now, key additions are being made.
Former West Virginia center Jimmy Bell was MSU’s first portal pick-up. Bell averaged 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds as the Mountaineers’ starting big man last season and chose the Bulldogs over Missouri. Bell provides much-needed depth in the post.
Jans didn’t stop there, however. Over the weekend, State landed one of the most coveted players available in the portal, former Marshall guard Andrew Taylor, who was amongst the nation’s best scorers, averaging 20.2 points per game for the Thundering Herd last season. MSU had to beat out a loaded list of programs for Taylor, with the likes of Florida, Auburn, Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ole Miss pursuing.
Mississippi State’s offensive woes in year one of the Jans-era were no secret. To say scoring was a chore would be an understatement, and the lack of a go-to shot-maker in the backcourt greatly limited their potential. Taylor is the exact type of player this roster needs. If you can pair him with Tolu Smith, you could have something special.
Following a first-team All-SEC season, Smith declared for the NBA Draft while maintaining his college eligibility in early April. But Smith was not invited to either the NBA or NBA G-League combine. Should Tolu Smith announce his intentions to return to MSU for a final season, this will be a very dangerous team in 2023-2024.
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