Fractured left wrist to sideline Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele six weeks

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While the first season of the Rick Ray era at Mississippi State was expected to be a tough one given the players who decided to leave the program at the end of last year, it’s difficult to think that anyone envisioned this kind of start for the Bulldogs.

First there were the season-ending knee injuries to freshman guards Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite, robbing a team already thin in the backcourt of two newcomers Ray hoped would be able to contribute.

And Tuesday’s 78-58 victory over Florida Atlantic became one of the Pyrrhic variety as junior Jalen Steele was lost for six weeks with a fractured left wrist suffered just before the midway point of the first half on a layup attempt.

The left side of Steele’s head hit the court after Dragan Sekelja palmed Steele’s layup try on the backboard with 10:40 left in the first half. Trainers spent roughly five minutes observing Steele before the woozy junior waved off a stretcher and walked to the locker room with the help of the trainers. He was taken to a local hospital for further observation after a trainer sealed a cut on the left side of his head with eight stitches, an MSU spokesman said.

Steele, who started 16 of the Bulldogs’ 33 games last season, was Mississippi State’s most experienced returnee entering the season and scored 16 points in their season-opening loss at Troy.

Luckily for the Bulldogs the injury won’t require surgery, and estimates project his return to the lineup to come just before the start of SEC play.

“I feel for Jalen because he put in a great deal of work in the offseason so that he could take advantage of the opportunity that was present for him this season,” MSU coach Rick Ray said in a statement released by the school. “I know with Jalen’s work ethic that he will attack his rehab and be ready to come back and help this team when that time comes.”

But that wasn’t the only bad news the program announced on Wednesday, as 6-8 junior forward Colin Borchert was suspended for a violation of team rules.

The East Mississippi CC transfer started both games this season for the 1-1 Bulldogs, averaging 5.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

Steele’s injury and the suspension of Borchert drops Mississippi State down to six healthy scholarship players ahead of their trip to the Maui Invitational next week, where their first opponent is No. 11 North Carolina.

Just about anything that could go wrong for Ray in his first Division I head coaching stint has gone wrong, setting the Bulldogs up for what could be a rough three days in Maui.

Photo credit: Mississippi State University

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.