"As always, I'm trying to put on strength and weight. In the SEC and college basketball the strength is a big factor. I went home and was able to eat well and put on some weight. Now, being in the weight room the last couple of months the strength is going up."
How much do you weigh? And how much did you weigh last year?
"I weigh about 190. I probably played most of the season last year around 180."
Are the 10 pounds muscle?
"I think so. I don't see it being anything else. And I feel like I'm getting stronger."
How will the added weight and muscle actually help you on the court?
"It helps everything. As far as defense, it helps you get through screens. You are always getting hit and the main thing is you have to fight through that. When you get hit you have to be able to go through it and finish the play. On a pass, if you get your arm hit, you still have to be able to complete that pass. It also helps you stay away from injuries. The more strength you have the better chance you have of not getting injured."
There are only two seniors on this team and you are one of the juniors. Are you trying to work on your leadership skills this summer in anticipation of becoming one of the leaders a year from now?
"I really haven't thought of it like that. I can be a leader, but right now there are other guys that do the leadership. I can watch them and learn from them. But right now it's a little tougher when you have other guys who are playing more minutes. But I feel like I know as much about the game as anybody else around here. So, I'm trying to help them out by letting them know what they can be doing as well as wanting them to help me out, too."
What do you see your role being on this team?
"I guess what it has been. When I'm in a game they are looking for me to be that guy who knocks down that shot. But when Stew (Barry Stewart) goes out I come in for him. And he's always guarding one of the best players defensively. So, I've kind of taken it on myself to not let the team have a letdown when he goes out defensively. And last year that turned out to be one of my strengths, being able to have success defensively. Hopefully, I can build on that because I take pride in that. It's not all about scoring. If I can help my team defensively, I'll be happy to do that."
What have you seen from the three freshmen - Wendell Lewis, John Riek and Shaunessy Smith?
"Right now, it seems like we have a great group coming in, just like we have the past couple of years. Everybody seems like they want to work hard and get better. They are in the weight room doing what they need to do, putting all the effort in the weights, getting stronger."
Individually, what have you seen from them? Talk about Wendell first.
"He is a lot stronger than I thought he would be when he first came in. As far as playing, when he actually slows down and takes his time he has got good back to the basket moves. He can score inside. And we need that."
What about Shaunessy?
"He is a great shooter. I know he has had some injuries that has slowed him down in the weight room. But it seems like he is explosive and has really good range on his shot."
"He is massive. He is probably one of the hardest workers that we have. In the weight room I know he's always trying to get his knee back to where it was before. As far as his game, he's a banger inside, a big presence. And he's stronger and bigger than you give him credit for. You know he's tall but once you get around him you realize he's thicker and stronger than you thought. He takes a lot of contact and can go through it."
What are your personal expectations for this year's team?
"I think we can go a long way. It's hard to say exactly what might happen but I know that all of us coming in this year have huge expectations. We are returning the same team except for Brian Johnson. But we have a bunch of guys coming in that we feel like can step in and be huge contributors. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be competing for the SEC regular season championship overall and the tournament title like last year. Then, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.