Bryant Making His Point In Backcourt Battle

It figures to feature the fiercest fall competition. So, why not roll the ball out right now and tell Brian Bryant, Dee Bost, and Deville Smith to have at it and may the best point guard win? Which by no coincidence is just what is happening in current informal scrimmaging.

"Yeah, we've got pretty intense scrimmages when we're playing with ourselves," says Bryant. "I guess everybody is just trying to help everybody get better." Wellll, that…and trying to stay a better than the rest ahead going into Mississippi State's preseason. A period which comes up just next week, in fact, as the Bulldogs start real practice almost three months early in preparation for a five-game European tour.

No wonder Bryant and company are pushing their personal paces these days, even if the only ‘coach' in sight is strength coach Richard Akins. Give Bryant credit for an ambitious view on the point guard position. "It's kind of undecided," he says.

This despite the proven presence of fellow senior Bost, who has the advantage of three years running State's show. Meanwhile Bryant has one SEC season on his resume, spent primarily as a backup and alternate. But then a single season makes all the difference in showing a player what this college game demands and Bryant can see the difference in himself.

"I'm going out there playing without thinking. That's trickled down to how I'm playing in scrimmages, and they've been telling me that I've been getting better at that."

Bryant has also been able to expand his repertoire more this summer. A year ago he was scrambling just to get up to college speed among several veterans. Now he is the veteran.

So, "I'm trying to pick up where we left off last year. I'm more confident now, I've been through it."

Another aid here in 2011's off-season has been the staggered summer roster. See, in June it was Bryant and Bost who had the respective, if shifting, squads to themselves. "We were on different teams because we were the only point guards," Bryant notes. Here in July, though, Smith has enrolled successfully and is taking his turns at quarterback. Well, too. "He's pretty quick, kind of like Dee."

The ‘point' so to speak is now either veteran point has to share, or swap…or play another position. That's something Bryant is comfortable with after his 2010-11 experience, and certainly helps speed Smith's transition from high school.

Speaking of speed, that is exactly how these Dogs—at all positions—have attacked their summer scrimmaging. The shot clock is set at 12 seconds and that's the deadline to do something on offense. Need one ask how Bryan feels about this hurry-up approach?

"Yeah! It's what I like!" he grins. "Open court, up-and-down, just trying to get our conditioning together. And just keep running up and down and trying to push tempo, instead of walking up the ball and trying to conserve your energy and stuff you're playing against the clock."

For that matter these Bulldogs are scrimmaging against the calendar right now. Practices begin as early as next Wednesday, though the absolute date was still pending today. Then the team boards their overseas flight on August 5 with game stops in Belgium, France, the Netherlands. Fun? Yeah, there'll be some of that.

Yet right now the focus isn't about collecting souvenirs or stories.

"We expect big things, of course," Bryant says. "To go over there and get five wins of course. And just come together as a team and kind of prove everybody wrong. Because we're pretty much the underdogs." Now, how he figures that, since no oddsmakers have weighed in on how the Bulldogs should perform in Europe, is anyone's guess. And if Bryant is trying to tack a chip to his and other shoulders about the coming season, or play the ‘lack of respect' card, that might be a tough sell elsewhere. It is hard to imagine a MSU team with a revamped Renardo Sidney in the post, transfer Arnett Moultrie ready to provide forward power, and of course playmaker/scorer Bost, as an underdog at all.

Still, if that's what it takes to get team attention, Bryant will play that card. And while the schedule isn't expected to be finalized for another day or two, with possible announcement by the weekend, Bryant has seen enough already.

"We've got a lot of tough non-conference games so we know we have to be ready from the get-go," he says. Meaning, a running start that begins in August against some really non-conference competition.

"It's real important that we go over there and try to get stuff accomplished. We're having a tougher season from last year so everybody has got to play more talent-wise." Not just that, but play all intangibles to the limit. Bryant has certainly changed his personal expectations of himself in this regard.

"I'm trying to step up my leadership and not just on the court but off the court, in the classroom. It's the last year so you're trying to graduate, so you can do what you have to do." Along that line, Bryant was on schedule for a spring 2012 graduation. "But I'm in the process of changing my major so it might be next June. I don't know (what major) yet, we're talking about that now."

Meanwhile there's a job to be won and three Dogs who want it. At the same time the entire backcourt is in flux this preseason as Jalen Steele is still coming back from his knee operation. He was in fact at the doctor Wednesday for an update. So Bryant knows how much is at stake when State players get together even with no clipboard coach in sight.

"Talking with Dee he pretty much wants to play the one. And then with Jalen being out we need somebody to step in there at two, and we have to find a three because Ray (Johnson) left. So we're kind of filling in the spots."

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