SEC Mississippi St Tennessee Basketball

Mississippi State is a popular destination for Carver-Montgomery players

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At one point last season, Mississippi State and head coach Rick Ray had five scholarship players available due to transfers, players turning pro, suspensions and a rash of injuries. So far this offseason, they’ve started to it turn around personnel-wise, and their 2014 class got a boost Monday from a school that’s very familiar with the Bulldogs’ program.

Demetrius Houston gave his verbal pledge to Ray. With that, the Montgomery (Ala.) George Washington Carver High School product became the fourth player from the school to commit to the Mississippi State program in recent years.

The 6-6 small forward joins 2015 Montgomery-Carver (what the local writers refer to it as) Bulldog commit Josh Struggs and current Mississippi State players Craig Sword and Roquez Johnson as guys who have made the trip from Montgomery to Starkville to play college basketball. Sword, a sophomore-to-be, was the team’s leading scorer last year, while Johnson, who will be a junior this upcoming season, averaged 8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in 2012-13. He was also suspended three games for a violation of team rules.

That gives Carver-Montgomery at least one Mississippi State commitment in the 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 classes — meaning Carver-Montgomery didn’t have a senior on its 2013 roster, obviously.

Houston is rated as high as a three-star recruit by some scouting services and is the second overall commitment for Mississippi State for 2014, joining shooting guard Maurice Dunlap.

As far as the future is concerned, the Bulldogs have the aforementioned Sword (a team-leading 10.5 points per game) and Johnson returning, along with Jalen Steele (10.1 ppg) and pretty much everyone else that matters. But Houston will an integral part of a class that will have to replace Steele and possibly a few others after next season.

I guess if something works, you stick with it, right?

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.