Trimmed-Down, Toned-Up Ware Ready To Roll

Gavin Ware can’t recall the last time he saw 258 on the scales, at least not when the needle stopped. What matters now is the Bulldog center finally can enjoy the results of those daily weigh-ins, having dropped below that 260 target. And hey, “We’re still trying to lose more so it won’t be such a burden on my knees.”

No, just the opposite. A slimmer and trimmer, relatively speaking, Ware should be a bigger burden for Mississippi State opponents in the 2014-15 campaign. The junior big Dog reported for preseason in career-best condition; not merely a little lighter than before but in a true tone.

Which Ware said he’s showing in practices and scrimmages already. ”I’m able to get up and down the floor and get rebounds, my wind has gotten longer. Coach can count on me.”

Third-year Coach Rick Ray absolutely is counting on his veteran postman to produce much more this winter. Thing is though, this does not translate automatically into more minutes for Ware. Just the opposite in fact. With redshirted center Fallou Ndoye now eligible and freshman Oliver Black enrolled, Bulldog basketball just got a lot bigger and deeper on the baseline.

It suddenly puts Ware in a new situation: after years of going it solo in the post he not only has help but the responsibility of breaking these big pups in the right way.

“My mindset is more encouraging the younger guys so when they come in they already know what to do,” he said. Except the new guys aren’t exactly showing their elder due respect, Ware said.

“You can see all the scratches on my face from them being physical and long, I just get beat-up!”

Never mind the intrasquad damage done though. Ware can count on doing more damage at each end of the court because he can go all-out at last. Not only was he held back the first two seasons by State’s utter lack of any other post player, but the conditioning would catch up if Ware did push his pace. Now every minute on the court can be run full-blast, and for that matter Ray won’t be yanking Ware off the court after a first foul any longer.

Yet, and this is the really exciting aspect for Mississippi State, it might not be Ware in the lineup low post at all. Ndoye can play the pivot and Ware go to his real preferred position of big forward. Or those two can take turns inside with Rocquez Johnson and Demetrius Houston at big forward for more athletic combinations. And so on.

“It goes back and forth,” Ware said. “Fallou can play at the four, I can play at the four, so it doesn’t matter.” What does matter is the new skills Ray’s recruiting class provides the frontcourt. “They’re quick and athletic,” Ware said. “They like to block shots. They can jump higher than me!”

But long as Ware can run faster and play stronger than ever before, he’ll be just fine working a little closer to the floor.

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