Jalen Steele

Jalen Steele

Former Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele headed to Middle Tennessee

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best teams in Conference USA this season, with Kermit Davis’ program once again winning 20 games and currently holding a share of first place in the league standings. Four seniors have led the way for the Blue Raiders, with forwards Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter and guard Kerry Hammonds II all scoring in double figures.

With that group, which includes guard “Tweety” Knight, leading the way Middle Tennessee is well-positioned to earn another postseason appearance. But there’s also the need to build for next season, and Middle Tennessee has added a guard to its rotation for the 2014-15 season.

On Friday it was reported by Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal that former Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele will join the Middle Tennessee program as a graduate transfer.

“I told Jalen he needed to look for a good fit, a school that needed a guard like him, and obviously Middle Tennessee loses (senior Kerry) Hammonds,” Steele’s high school coach, Jody Wright said. “So that’s a winning program that could use an experienced guard like Jalen. And I think he will have a big impact because he’s an SEC-caliber guard that can really shoot it on the perimeter. I think he made a good choice with Middle Tennessee.”

Last season Steele averaged 10.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, but a torn ACL meant that he would miss the 2013-14 season. Mississippi State announced that Steele’s career was over, but according to his high school coach the guard is back to full strength.

Steele joins a 2014 recruiting class that already boasted two incoming freshmen and four junior college transfers, with four of those players being perimeter players.

Rick Ray clarifies the Jalen Steele injury situation

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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.

Jalen Steele’s career at Mississippi State is over (UPDATED)

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After three seasons that included multiple injuries Jalen Steele decided his playing career at Mississippi State is over, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-3 guard from Knoxville, Tenn., entered Starkville as a three-start commit. However, during his stint in a Bulldogs uniform he has suffered a broken wrist and most recently a torn ACL back in March in a loss to South Carolina. That season-ending injury — a phrase MSU was all to familiar with hearing this past season — came a month after Steele was suspended indefinitely, which sidelined him for three games.

“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.”

In 18 games this season, Steele averaged 10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. He will stay and focus on graduating this spring, according to the university.

[UPDATE]

As seen above, the school announced that Steele had made the choice to end his playing career. Though according to Steele’s Twitter account that is not the case:

Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele suspended indefinitely

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An already thin Mississippi State roster has gotten thinner as junior Jalen Steele was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, the school announced Saturday.

Steele, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., has been a constant amidst all of the changes in Starkville, but now must sit on the sidelines for an indeterminate amount of time. He has seen action in 13 games this season, 11 of them starts, after retuning from a wrist fracture that kept him out of eight games early in the year.

In those 13 games, Steele averaged 9.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. His best game of the season came Jan. 12 in a road win over Georgia when he scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Without Steele available, Mississippi State now has only six scholarship players available and two eligible walk-ons. Coach Rick Ray inherited a difficult situation with the Bulldogs, and it has been made no easier with this news Saturday. They take on No. 2 Florida at 4:00 p.m. ET and the host Gators are favored by 29 points.

Steele reportedly did not make the trip to Gainesville with the team.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Mississippi State proves it has a long way to go in UNC loss

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It’s not like no one could see it coming. Mississippi State’s roster was blatantly lacking talent.

If you had North Carolina minus-45 tonight, please collect your winnings, the Tar Heels demolished the Bulldogs 95-49. And frankly, it wasn’t even that close.

It’s going to be a long season for first year head coach Rick Ray. The biggest problem that Mississippi State in the aftermath of Rick Stansbury “retiring” (I’ll continue to use the quotes until someone admits he was forced out) is that they didn’t realize how much his players loved him. Arnett Moultrie was on the fence about leaving until Ol’ Stans got fired. Renardo Sidney, as much of a raging pain in the [neck] as he was, loved Stansbury. He had to, the guy basically sacrificed his career for him.

Guys like Rodney Hood and Deville Smith were Stansbury guys. This was evident. They were all gone before Rick Ray could even get to know them.

With that, Ray inherited a roster that had one impact player left on it from last season in Jalen Steele. Now Steele is out six weeks with a wrist injury.

Now it’s almost a crap shoot as to who is going to be able to give quality minutes to the Bulldogs on a nightly basis.

It wasn’t just the score that said so much about Mississippi State’s incredibly quick fall, it was the way it happened. North Carolina, while a legitimate threat to crash a Final Four, was getting easy looks down low as guys like James Michael McAdoo (10 points on 4-for-8 shooting) and Desmond Hubert (3-for-3) dominated. The perimeter shots came even easier with North Carolina hitting 15-of-32 three’s.

Granted, UNC has the talent this season to do great things. This performance was in part a show of how good they are and how possibly some underrated them and undervalued Roy Williams as a coach.

The effort for Mississippi State, it was definitely there. Roquez Johnson (12) and Wendell Lewis (10) finished in double figures. They were only out-rebounded 45-38. They got to the foul line 19 times, making 13. The want-to is definitely there. Trouble is, the talent is not.

Things will get better for Mississippi State. Ray already has a great recruiting class coming in for 2013. He’s got the roots and the track record of winning. The hope may be that he gets enough time to work out of this. If he’s given it, Ray will.

You just have to feel for Mississippi State. It’s going to be a tough season, by no fault of anyone currently on the team.