Shane Power Ready for the Challenge

This basketball offseason didn't produce much time off the court for Shane Power.<P> The Mississippi State senior spent the summer at the tradition-rich adidas camp along with fellow classmate Marcus Campbell. Power and Campbell were among 30 college standouts, working with the top players in the country, high school and college.

Two weeks later, Power earned a spot of the Ireland National team. The guard-forward will possibly make his debut with the Irish squad next September when the international play tips off.

And somehow, Power also managed to pick up a bachelor's degree in sports communication.

During his hectic offseason, Power remained focus on his top goal.

"This offseason, I was all about getting better every day," said Power. "Athletic-wise, skill-wise and really regaining my confidence. I think I did that and it was evident in my showing at adidas camp and making the Irish National team.

"I just want to concentrate on being a leader in individual workouts, and in conditioning. Being a senior, it brings another level of urgency and responsibility. That's something I've been waiting for at Mississippi State the last two or three years."

With the exhibition opener just three weeks away, the Bulldogs returned to the court Saturday morning, the first time as a unit since March.

Mirroring last year's attitude, Power and his teammates are anxious to get back on the court without looking down the road.

"We have some long-term goals, hopefully making it farther in the NCAA Tournament and get back to the SEC Tournament Championship game, which we haven't made it to the last two years," said Power. "But right now, it's just one practice at a time, one game at a time.

"Our first game against Fairfield is a huge game. Then, if we're fortunate to advance, we would probably face a couple of Top 15 programs in Syracuse and Memphis. Right now, we have to concentrate on getting better every day. We have to bring our young guys along quickly. We have to be ready to go on Nov. 11."

If the Bulldogs do advance past the opening round, future meetings with Memphis and Syracuse could await. The following month features a matchup with perennial power Arizona in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

"I would say we have one of the toughest schedules in the country," said Power. "And the season starts three weeks earlier for us this year. So we really have to prepare in a hurry but it does beat waiting around (to open the season)."

"I think this is something our fans have waited for, and we've waited for, to play a tough non-conference schedule. I think it adds to the excitement but it brings another level of responsibility. We could play three teams in the Top 15 (Arizona, Memphis and Syracuse) if we get that far. Then we play teams that went to the NCAA's like UIC (Illinois-Chicago) and Xavier. And that's all before getting to the SEC."

A year ago, Power saw his first action since transferring from Iowa State, as well as recovering from knee surgery. The 6-foot-5 Power seemed to improve every game that saw him in the starting lineup 16 times. Power averaged 9.7 points a game and gave the Bulldogs a nice threat beyond the arc (38-of-79 three-pointers).

But as one of five seniors, he admits the role has shifted somewhat this preseason.

"We do have five seniors and I thought we had great leadership and experience last year because we were all juniors and seniors," said Power. "You go from the feeling of trying to get healthy, trying to fit into trying to lead. And I feel comfortable in that role.

"The difference is we have a lot more young guys. We need those guys to come along quickly. They are very talented young guys. When I say young guys, we also have some sophomores that are pretty good like Dietric (Slater) and Gary (Ervin)."

And it's a freshmen class that brings impressive prep resumes to Starkville. Charles Rhodes, Jerrell Houston and Walter Sharpe brings loads of athleticism to the table.

However, as Power pointed out, there is a learning curve regardless of the hype.

"We really need the freshmen and sophomores to buy into what we are doing early and really come along quickly," said Power. "It is an adjustment for them. I know our freshmen don't have the experience of going through four-hour practices against this type of competition.

"And there are two sides to that. It may cause us to go a little slower than we want to in the beginning. But the plus side is, hopefully, as we move on, those young guys get better and our team will be better.

"We didn't have a lot of youth coming off the bench last year. What we started the season with is what we finished the season with. And that may differ this year. Some of those guys may help us a lot more down the stretch than they will at the beginning. As they get better, so will the team."

The senior class also got a little lift when all-American forward/center Lawrence Roberts pulled his name out of the NBA Draft. With the force in the middle returning for his senior season, the Bulldogs obviously improved their national stock.

But Power and his teammates approached Roberts' summer dilemma in a different fashion, one that ultimately reaped numerous benefits.

"One thing that helped this offseason is I think we prepared like Lawrence wasn't coming back," said Power. "I think it kind of made everybody work a little bit harder, trying to get a little bit better. We thought we would have a pretty good team without Lawrence.

"But when he did decide to come back, I think it really puts us right in the mix of everything, nationally. I think the key was we prepared like he wasn't coming back so it was a pleasant surprise when he decided (to come back for his senior season)."

And like the past couple of years, with experience and talent returning, so do the high expectations. Power and the Bulldogs are not shying away from the aspect. Like the past two years, that business-like attitude in practice and games should become valuable as the season unwinds.

"I think expectations are high and that's good," said Power. "But we really have to take one game at a time and proved ourselves every game. You can use the expectations to motivate us but the bottom line is going out and winning those games. That's not going to be an easy thing to do. It's going to take a lot of digging deep and scratching and clawing to win those games. But it's a challenge we look forward to."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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