On Tuesday evening, Mississippi State announced that oft-injured senior Jalen Steele’s career as a Bulldog was over.
Steele had battled through a pair of torn ACLs and a broken wrist in his three seasons in Starkville. That would be enough to convince a lot of people that basketball just wasn’t worth it, so it wasn’t exactly a major surprise to hear the news.
“What Jalen has experienced with injuries has been extremely unfortunate,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray said in a statement. “He’s battled through a lot of adversity, and it’s important we do everything we can to support and help him earn his degree from Mississippi State.”
But Steele took to twitter on Tuesday night, telling anyone who would listen that the end of his Mississippi State career wasn’t actually his choice.
“Hilarious,” Steele wrote, “I’m not done playing just wanted to take a year off to get stronger and be strong for my senior year. … I came back last year to play ball and also for the people of Mississippi state we a family but there is always a home wrecker. … All I wanted was a redshirt and come back stronger next year but they got what they wanted. … I hope my dude stay strong those snakes coming for him next I heard they said 1 down 1 more to go.”
That’s a bad look, but once you hear Ray’s explanation, it makes sense.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com got Ray on the phone, and the Mississippi State head coach said that Steele was cleared to work out and play a good two months before the season started, but that Steele’s plan was to redshirt the 2013-2014 season and use his final season of eligibility in 2014-2015. Mississippi State doesn’t have a scholarship available for Steele next season, which means that if Steele does, in fact, red shirt this year, he won’t be finishing out his eligibility as a Bulldog.
Ray will honor Steele’s scholarship this season, though. Steele will also still have access to the athletic trainers and the academic resource center, according to Parrish.
If that is, in fact, how this situation played out, I don’t have a problem with it. Ray’s trying to rebuild a program, and his first season was basically a wash as he watched his team lose player after player to injury. So he filled all 13 of his scholarships for the 2014-2015 season, safeguarding himself on the off chance that the Bulldogs can’t kick the injury bug. He did it under the assumption that Steele would be graduating this season.
Ray honored his responsibility to Steele. The player will be on scholarship for four years and will leave school with a degree and a chance to play immediately for one season elsewhere. I have a tough time getting up in arms about that.