At times last year, there were barely enough players to have a starting five thanks to several injuries to guys like then true freshman Andre Applewhite, freshman Jacoby Davis, senior Wendell Lewis and junior Jalen Steele.
The good news is all four will be back this season. Add in freshmen I.J. Ready and Fallou Ndoye as well as junior college transfer Travis Daniels and the MSU coaching staff will be almost giddy with delight thanks to the abundance of bodies available leading into the season.
Where the bodies fit into the rotation will be decided during the pre-season workouts, at least for the coaches. Fans as well as media types, such as yours truly, don't have to wait that long.
So, who do I feel fits where in this season's upcoming rotation?
You start with the aforementioned Gavin Ware, who is likely to start at center for the Dogs.
Head man Rick Ray believes Ware has a chance to a be a star in the SEC and Ware has worked hard during the off-season to hurry up that prediction. He's now got a year under his belt, a belt that doesn't fit as snug as it did last season thanks to some lost weight and new muscle.
Last season, Ware, who is listed on the roster as a 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, averaged 8.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. I can see those numbers rising to around 10 to 12 points per game and 7 or 8 rebounds per game.
It's likely he will be backed up by redshirt senior Wendell Lewis. Lewis played in 8 games last season before ending his season due to an injury. He applied for a redshirt year due to the injury and was granted the request. Lewis was playing the best ball of his career before the injury. And if he can continue that type of play this season he will be a great two in a one-two punch with Gavin Ware. Lewis is listed as 6-foot-9, 251 pounds on the roster.
While I don't expect him to get too many minutes early on, I expect freshman Fallou Ndoye (6-foot-11, 215) to earn some minutes during the season. He's still raw but has good athletic ability, plays solid defense and blocks shots. Plus, he has a better shooting touch than you might expect from a big man. He will also play with a lot of effort, something that is required if you want to play for Rick Ray. Something that helped him prepare for this season was playing for the high school national champion Findlay Prep. His team traveled the country playing some of the best teams and talent in the nation, many of whom he will play against in college.
Senior Colin Borchert, who started 24 games last season, improved as the season progressed. In fact, during the last five games of the season when MSU won 3 of 5, he averaged 14.2 points per game and pulled down 7.2 rebounds. He plays with a lot of effort, which helps offset the quickness and speed of the SEC forwards that he plays against. While he will play power forward, he's actually the best three-point shooter among the projected starters, making .337 of his three-point attempts. He also plays solid defense, leading the team in blocked shots with 36 while placing fourth on the team in steals with 33. The 6-foot-8, 231-pounder will be a mismatch at times on offense due to his three-point ability.
Junior Roquez Johnson played in 28 games last season, 8 as a starter. Although primarily coming off the bench during games, he still averaged 8.8 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. He started the season strong, scoring in double digits the first six games of the season, then scoring in double digits in four of the last five of the season. He showed signs last season of how good he can be. He simply needs to do that on a more consistent basis. If he does, then he will give MSU a great one-two punch at power forward.
Although I see him more as a small forward, junior college transfer Travis Daniels, 6-foot-8, 205, looks to be MSU's third power forward if they need to go that deep. He's got a good shooting touch that will cause him to be a mismatch with other power forwards in the league. He's also a high basketball IQ player.
Sophomore Fred Thomas could easily be a shooting guard for Mississippi State but another sophomore, Craig Sword, is a better fit for that position. Thomas is a long 6-foot-5 player who has the size and quickness to play small forward in the SEC . He's also a guy who can score inside or out on the perimeter. Last season he averaged 9.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. He used his quickness to lead the team in steals with 56. With a year under his belt, his numbers should increase across the board.
Thomas will have competition for the starting spot from talented juco newcomer Travis Daniels. Daniels has a solid mid-range game offensively, plays solid defense and is very team-oriented. His mid-range game is something MSU doesn't currently have among its players. I expect him to see his minutes increase as the season progresses due to his mid-range game.
Redshirt freshman Andre Applewhite, who didn't play last season due to an injury, is thought of as a very, very good defensive player with a solid offensive game. He's at a disadvantage among this group due to the experience that both Thomas and Daniels have.
Sophomore Craig Sword, for most of last season, played out of position due to having to play point guard quite a bit. He's more suited as a shooting guard, although his outside shooting ability has to improve for him to be the starter. He led the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game as a freshman while also tying for the most assists with 75. He also led the team in turnovers with 127. Switching over to shooting guard should cut down his turnovers significantly this season. With his tremendous athletic ability he could be an outstanding two guard if his outside shot comes around.
Senior Jalen Steele is coming off an injury but he should be fine by the time season starts. He gives MSU a reliable outside shooter, averaging 10.1 points per game, and a great free-throw shooter (.923 free-throw shooter last season). I could see a healthy Steele competing against Sword for the starting spot.
Senior Tyson Cunningham, a walk-on, played a lot of minutes last season due to the injuries and did extremely well. He led the team is three-point shooting, making .413 of his three pointers. He proved to be a very valuable member of last years's team but with Sword moving to the shooting guard spot and a healthy Steele returning, I see Cunningham as this year's third team 2-guard.
Point guard should be a battle this season but I see junior Trivante Bloodman starting the season as the starter at that position. Starting 32 of 32 games last season, Bloodman led the team in minutes played with 29.1 minutes per game. He scored 6.1 points per game, averaged 2.3 assists per game.
Redshirt freshman Jacoby Davis brings a different type player to the point guard position. He's a more physical player similar to former MSU point guard Jamont Gordon. He also has the potential to be more of a scoring point guard than Bloodman.
True freshman I.J. Ready is a true point guard. He looks to pass first then score if the option is there. I've seen him play in person and he is quick as a cat and rarely makes bad decisions even under pressure. While he still needs to add size and strength to handle the physicalness of the SEC, he has a chance to play a lot of minutes this season.
MSU also has four other players on the roster, all walk-ons. They include freshman Kyle Dobbs, a 6-foot-6, 160-pound shooting guard, junior college transfer Tevin Moore, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound shooting guard, freshman Dallas Prater, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound shooting guard, and freshman De'Runnya Wilson, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound small forward. Prater and De'Runnya will likely have the most impact of the four players, although it will have to be after the football season for Wilson since he is on a football scholarship.
Wilson is a player to watch in the future. This past season he earned numerous honors in basketball, more in basketball than he won in football, including being named to the Class 5A All-State team, being selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association's Super All-State team, winning the state of Alabama's Mr. Basketball Award and being named to the Parade's All-American team, 1 of just 40 players to be named to the team. He averaged 18.4 points per game and a phenomenal 15.8 rebounds per game this past season.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.