Coming off last year's respectable 15-15 campaign despite featuring a youthful, inexperienced ballclub, the 2006-07 State squad returns four starters from a season ago. Excluding suspended senior swingman Dietric Slater and University of Louisville transfer Brian Johnson, 10 of MSU's 13 available rostered players at season's start are either freshmen or sophomores.
Headlining this season's talented corps of Bulldog returnees are preseason second-team all-SEC selections and team co-captains Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon. A junior from Jackson, Rhodes earned second-team all-league honors last year after ranking 12th in the SEC in scoring (13.8 ppg), eighth in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and third in field-goal percentage (56.4%) for all games. Gordon, a Nashville native, earned unanimous SEC All-Freshman laurels and freshman all-America recognition a season ago after finishing his rookie campaign ranked 13th in the SEC in scoring (13.8 ppg), 10th in rebounding (6.8 rpg) and seventh in assists (4.3 apg) overall on the year.
Currently riding a seven-game winning streak in exhibition competition, the Bulldogs own a 13-2 composite record in preseason contests since Stansbury took over MSU's head coaching duties in 1998. Last season, Mississippi State knocked off NCAA Division II members West Georgia (80-66) and West Florida (76-73) during preseason action.
Affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and a member of the Southern States Athletic Conference, Auburn University Montgomery returns three starters from last year's 16-11 squad. Guided by 30th-year head coach and 1964 Auburn University graduate Larry Chapman, the Senators expect to again be led by senior guard Joseph Manuel this season. The Beatrice, Ala., native averaged a team-leading 17.6 points per game, including hitting 41 percent on 69-of-169 three-point shooting as an honorable mention all-American last season. Manuel also averaged 5.4 rebounds an outing and hit 80 percent of his charity tosses as a junior. Senior guards Montrelle Crittendon and Mario Lusk averaged 13.3 and 11.1 points per contest, respectively, a year ago, in addition to combining for 175 assists.
The Bulldogs will conclude preseason competition this Saturday evening (Nov. 4) by welcoming reigning NAIA runner-up Oklahoma City University to Starkville. Tip-off for Saturday's MSU-OCU exhibition contest has been moved up one hour to 6 p.m. CT, and there will again be no charge for admission into the game.
Mississippi State officially tips off the school's 95th season of men's basketball collegiate competition by playing host to Nicholls State out of the Southland Conference on Saturday, Nov. 11. Game time is slated for 2 p.m. at MSU's 10,500-seat Humphrey Coliseum. The Bulldogs will continue their season-opening, three-game homestand by welcoming Loyola Marymount and reigning NCAA Tournament participant Winthrop on Nov. 13 and 18, respectively.