Bulldogs Open Exhibition Against West Georgia

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Coach Rick Stansbury's new-look Mississippi State Bulldogs will open their 2005-06 preseason basketball slate by playing host to the University of West Georgia Braves this Saturday evening on the MSU campus. Tip-off at Humphrey Coliseum is set for 7 p.m., and admission is free of charge.

Entering the new hoops campaign having made four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with four-straight seasons of 20 or more victories, the Bulldogs begin the 2005-06 season looking to replace 80 percent of their scoring, rebounding and assist numbers from last year's 23-11 ballclub. Gone from last season's second-round NCAA Tournament squad are former all-American and current Memphis Grizzlies forward Lawrence Roberts, all-SEC swingman Shane Power, and the school's all-time winningest basketball players in guard Winsome Frazier and center Marcus Campbell. Minus their top six scorers and top six rebounders from a year ago, this year marks the first time since MSU's post-Final Four campaign of 1996-97 that the Bulldogs will begin a basketball season without the services of all five starters from the previous year.

Expected to headline this year's corps of eight returning lettermen for the Bulldogs are senior co-captains Jamall Edmondson and Wesley Morgan, juniors Dietric Slater and Piotr Stelmach, along with sophomore forwards Charles Rhodes and Walter Sharpe. Edmondson, a second-year backcourt performer from Meridian Community College, hails as MSU's leading returning scorer and playmaker at 4.8 points and 1.3 assists per contest, respectively. Slater, a veteran, left-handed swingman from Waynesboro, contributed 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in a reserve role a season ago. Both Morgan and Stelmach earned valuable playing experience this past off-season, participating on international goodwill tours for Sports Reach (China) and SCORE International (Germany), respectively.

Much of the preseason optimism regarding State's possible bid for a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance centers around the arrival of a five-man recruiting class that has been ranked eighth nationally by RivalsHoops.com and singled out by Lindy's Basketball preseason magazine as the best group of newcomers in the SEC. Looking to headline this nationally ranked newcomer quintet is southpaw swingman Jamont Gordon of powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia by way of Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound standout was recently tabbed by CBS SportsLine.com as one of 11 freshmen who look to make the biggest impact nationally on the 2005-06 college basketball season. Also expected to make immediate contributions to this year's youthful State squad are forward/center Vernon Goodridge (6-9, 220) of Philadelphia's Lutheran Christian Academy by way of Brooklyn, twin guards Reginald and Richard Delk (both 6-4, 170) of North Side High School in Jackson, Tenn., and forward Bernard Rimmer (6-8, 195), who was an all-state performer at Grenada High School prior to starring as a fifth-year player last season at Bridgton Academy in Maine.

An NCAA Division II school located in Carrollton, Ga., the West Georgia Braves also forge into the upcoming campaign looking to replace valuable production from last year's 23-7 contingent. Picked in the preseason coaches' poll to finish second in the Gulf South Conference's East Division (behind Montevallo), UWG bids to replace four senior starters who combined for 68 percent of the team's scoring totals last season. The Braves are guided by 27th-year head coach Ed Murphy, though the former Ole Miss head basketball coach (1987-92) and current UWG athletic director is not expected to make the trip to Starkville this weekend after undergoing successful lung surgery last month. The veteran hoops mentor, heading into his 13th season at West Georgia, had a portion of his left lung removed after a cancerous lesion was discovered during a physical exam. Paced by senior forward Chris Burras' game-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, the West Georgia Braves opened their 2005-06 exhibition slate this past Wednesday with a 71-60 road victory over Kennesaw State.

Entering his eighth season at the MSU helm with a career coaching record of 149-75, Stansbury owns an 11-2 career mark in exhibition contests. State will conclude its 2005-06 preseason slate next Saturday afternoon (Nov. 12) by playing host to the University of West Florida Argonauts, also out of the Gulf South Conference. Tip-off for the Bulldogs' exhibition finale is set for 2 p.m., and admission will again be free of charge. MSU's 2005-06 regular-season schedule begins with a Nov. 19 home contest against Chattanooga.

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