What do you think about the preseason schedule?
"I think it is something we have been waiting for, something you guys (the media) have been waiting for and something our fans have been waiting for. But with that comes a lot of responsibility and accountability. We've got a tough schedule. I don't know if it could be any tougher due to the travel and the teams that we are playing and the type of national audience that we will have. That's a tough challenge for us, but we are paying the price right now (in two-a-days). Hopefully, come those games, our hard work will come to fruition."
As a player, isn't that kind of national attention exactly what you want?
"Yeah, it's what you play for. It's something that keeps us motivated during these hard two-a-days. You look forward to it the entire preseason. We are excited about it and glad that we have the opportunity this year."
What is the difference between this year's team compared to last year's team?
"I think this team is yet to be determined. I don't think it is a question that I can answer. We do have some new guys, but we lost two great leaders in Branden Vincent and Timmy Bowers. And this team has to go out and prove that we are as tough as last year's team. We have to prove that we can be up like last year's team, we can make big shots like last year's team."
What do you like about the three freshmen big men, Houston, Rhodes and Sharpe?
"The biggest thing I like is they are all mobile. All three of them are 6-8 or above. They are very athletic and run the court very well. They are very active on the boards and on defense. I think those are going to be their strong points."
Do they understand the Mississippi State way, which is playing with toughness all game long?
"No, no they don't. That's not a knock on them. You can't expect an 18 year old kid who was in high school last year to come in and have the same toughness that 23, 24 and 25 year old seniors have. But they are working hard at it."
Who will take over the leadership roles now that Branden Vincent and Timmy Bowers are no longer on the team?
"I think we have taken it upon ourselves as an entire team to do that. When we lost Timmy and Branden and then we didn't think Lawrence was coming back, we prepared to play without those three guys. Everybody had to step up, so, in some ways, everybody has been a leader on this team."
Do you feel you are farther along than you were at this time last year?
"(Laugh) I'll just say this, this is the first preseason that I have had in two years. And I've worked my butt off all summer. I feel like I'm pretty healthy."
How did playing for the Irish National team and coaching at the adidas camp this summer help you?
"I gained a lot of confidence. The Irish camp was a big confidence booster for me. The adidas camp, with Marcus Campbell also there, was a big confidence booster for me. I feel like I am ready to contribute to this team in a major way."
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Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.