Mississippi State continues to be one of the big stories in recruiting the Class of 2016 as Ben Howland and the Bulldogs landed four-star big man Abdulhakim Ado on Monday night, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.
The addition of the 6-foot-10 Ado means that Howland has overhauled the Mississippi State roster very quickly as Ado becomes the sixth four-star prospect to commit to the Bulldogs in the 2016 class. Regarded as the No. 73 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Ado is a defensive specialist and one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the national class. While Howland was quick to add a lot of talented guards early in his 2016 pursuits, adding Ado and fellow four-star big man Schnider Herard the last few weeks helps stabilize the future front court for Mississippi State.
Ado and Herard are joined by four-star wing Mario Kegler, as well as four-star guards Tyson Carter, Lamar Peters and Eli Wright. Howland and his staff have put together a no-brainer top-10 national recruiting class during his first full season of recruiting at the SEC program and this class certainly sends notice that Howland is still a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail.
Mississippi State has yet to officially play a game with head coach Ben Howland at the helm, but his arrival in Starkville continues to pay dividends on the recruiting trail. Wednesday afternoon the Bulldogs received another important commitment, as 6-foot-7 four-star wing Mario Kegler announced at Oak Hill Academy that he’ll play his college basketball at Mississippi State.
Kegler, a native of Mississippi, was also considering Indiana and Maryland but ultimately decided that the chance to play in his home state was too much to pass up. Kegler is ranked 29th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, and he’s the fifth commitment in the class for Mississippi State.
It’s a class that checks off all of the boxes from a need standpoint. Four-star guard Tyson Carter and Lamar Peters are players expected to have an immediate impact, and the same goes for wings Kegler and Eli Wright and big man Schnider Herard. This is a highly talented group for a program that hasn’t experienced much success since the departure of Rick Stansbury, which goes to show the impact that Howland and his staff have had on the program since their arrival in the spring.
In addition to the five recruits the Bulldogs will add Louisiana Tech transfer Xavian Stapleton, who’s also rehabbing from a torn ACL while sitting out this season. Mississippi State will lose four seniors at the end of the 2014-15 season, and many expect elite freshman guard Malik Newman to head to the NBA after just one season.
Mississippi State is also a finalist for talented power forward De’Ron Davis, who’s scheduled to announce his college decision on Thursday, and Abdulhakim Ado is another interior prospect they’re currently pursuing.
As part of his first press conference of the new school year, Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland announced that one of his freshman will be sidelined for health reasons. Freshman forward Joe Struggs, who enrolled at Mississippi State in August, won’t be available to the team for the next two months due to a bone issue in both of his shins according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Given the timeline provided by Howland on Thursday, Struggs would be back in time for the start of the regular season if everything goes according to plan with his recovery. However, for a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth in the front court Struggs’ injury takes away another option for competition in the weeks leading up to the start of practices in early October and the regular season in November.
Struggs’ injury is the latest that Mississippi State’s had to deal with, as Louisiana Tech transfer Xavian Stapleton (he had to sit out this upcoming season anyway) was lost to a torn ACL last month and three other players underwent surgery this offseason with big man Fallou Ndoye (right wrist) being one of those three.
For a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth inside, with senior Gavin Ware being their most productive option, another injury doesn’t help matters as Mississippi State looks to turn things around in the SEC.
After playing one season at Louisiana Tech, guard Xavian Stapleton transferred to Mississippi State and was expected to have the entire 2015-16 season to work on his game and help the Bulldogs in practice as he sat out per NCAA transfer rules. However those plans hit a bump in the road, as Stapleton suffered a knee injury in a pickup game that’s expected to sideline him for six months.
The Mississippi State basketball program announced the news Thursday, with the official diagnosis being a torn ACL and meniscus in Stapleton’s left knee.
“My heart goes out to Xavian and his family. You never want to see one of your players hurt,” Mississippi State first-year head coach Ben Howland said in a release according to the Clarion-Ledger. “But I’m 100 percent confident he’ll bounce back and be stronger than ever. It happened at a time that he should be ready to go when the season begins next year.”
Given the timeline announced, Stapleton would not be a full go in practices for the Bulldogs until February at the earliest. With guards Craig Sword and Fred Thomas being seniors and freshman Malik Newman projected by many to have the talent needed to turn pro after just one season in college, the practice time would have helped Stapleton prepare for what could be a prominent role in 2016-17.
Unfortunately, Stapleton’s knee injury means that much of the time that could have been spent on the court will now be spent rehabbing from the setback.
With I.J. Ready entering his junior season and incoming freshman Malik Newman being a player more than a few believe capable of making his stay in college a short one, adding another player capable of handling the basketball wouldn’t have been a bad idea for new Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland.
Howland was able to accomplish that Saturday, as four-star point guard Lamar Peters announced that he’s committed to Mississippi State. The 6-foot-1 Peters, who is the first commitment in the Class of 2016 for Mississippi State, committed while on an unofficial visit to the school.
The New Orleans native attends Landry-Walker HS where he’s helped lead the team to consecutive Class 4A state titles. As a junior Peters averaged 19.8 points and five assists per game, and he discussed his progression as a point guard and its impact on his recruitment with the New Orleans Times-Picayune earlier this week.
I’m gaining confidence being a point guard and I’m getting recruited a lot and picking up many offers this summer. Which means I’ve been playing good, being consistent with my shot and in my decision-making … it’s been a blast so far this (offseason).
I’m being recruited by: Illinois, USC, Mississippi State, Baylor, UMass, Gonzaga, Wichita State, Georgia Tech, LSU, and Tulane. I mean it’s a lot of teams and I’m loving it right now. I just want to keep continuing to get better.
Playing for the New Orleans Elite program, Peters averaged 13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest on the first two stops of the adidas Gauntlet circuit. In 2016 he’ll join a backcourt that will lose two seniors in Craig Sword and Fred Thomas, with Ready entering his senior season and both Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon being sophomores.
Ben Howland has landed his second recruit as the head coach of Mississippi State, and the second may actually be more surprising than his first.
Aric Holman, a four-star forward from the Class of 2016, has committed to be a Bulldog and will join the Class of 2015. Holman is a bit of a late-bloomer and initially planned on attending prep school for the 2015-16 season.
“I think (Howland) is going to be good for him,” Holman’s high school coach, Roderick Drake, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I’ve heard he’s a pretty tough coach, and I think that’s what Aric needs. I think if Aric listens to him, he’ll be a great player for him.”
Holman has been playing on the AAU circuit this spring with Hoop Dreams, a Kentucky-based AAU team, and has impressed. He’s a 6-foot-9 athlete with the kind of length, athleticism and three-point range that tantalizes scouts. He needs to get stronger, which is a major reason that he had initially decided to spend a year at prep school, but he received interest from a number of high profile programs this spring, including Texas, where he was supposed to visit in the coming weeks.
Holman is the No. 70 player in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals. He joins Newman, three-star guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and three-star forward Joseph Strugg in MSU’s 2015 recruiting class. Weatherspoon and Strugg committed to the program when Rick Ray was still head coach.