Xavian Stapleton

Mississippi State loses guard Xavian Stapleton to knee injury

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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.

Mississippi State lands transfer wing

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Ben Howland added another piece to his roster through the transfer market on Sunday as a source confirmed to NBCSports.com that Louisiana Tech wing Xavian Stapleton is headed to the SEC. The 6-foot-6 Stapleton originally had intense restrictions placed on him that didn’t allow him to go to 55 potential destinations. Once the restrictions were softened to only 20 schools, Stapleton was able to commit to Mississippi State.

Stapleton averaged 6.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a freshman at Louisiana Tech and he’ll have to sit out the 2015-16 season before getting three more years of eligibility. The additional year of development should help Stapleton prepare for the league upgrade to the SEC and he’ll help replace the departure of seniors Craig Sword and Fred Thomas.

Stapleton also took visits to Alabama and Iowa State during the recruiting process.

Louisiana Tech places serious restrictions on transferring guard Xavian Stapleton

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Programs placing restrictions on transferring players comes as no surprise in college basketball, with a number of conferences having rules that make it either difficult or impossible for a student-athlete to remain within the league once they decide to move on. However some schools take this a step further, restricting student-athletes from transferring to schools on upcoming schedules as well.

Missouri did this with forward Johnathan Williams III (who’s now at Gonzaga) before relenting somewhat in the face of public criticism, and according to a report Louisiana Tech has chosen the same route in regards to guard Xavian Stapleton.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, the school is restricting Stapleton from transferring to more than 50 Division I schools. On that list are other Conference USA schools, schools that are on future non-conference schedules and schools located in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. Also on the list is Florida, where former Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White is now in charge.

“(Louisiana Tech AD Tommy McClelland) said he wasn’t going to release me just because we got a new coach,” Stapleton said. “He said he thinks I should give him a chance. If I don’t like how the program goes this year, he’d give me a transfer for next season.”

Yulonda Davis, Stapleton’s mother, says she was told differently.

“I tried to reach out to (new Louisiana Tech head) Coach (Eric) Konkol after Xavian told him that he wanted to leave,” Davis said. “He said ‘OK, I’m not going to hold him hostage. Of course I want him to stay, but I’m not going to hold him hostage.'”

The 6-foot-6 Stapleton, who averaged 6.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last season, began having thoughts of transferring in early June before coming to that decision later in the month. The coaching change was an interesting process for Louisiana Tech, with many players campaigning for assistant Dusty May to be promoted.

But that didn’t happen, and with the program eventually losing Matt McMahon (he took over at Murray State for Steve Prohm) there was even more instability within the coaching staff. That factored into Stapleton’s decision to leave, but unless things change (or the NCAA grants their appeal) he’ll have to find a new school while working within the limitations set by Louisiana Tech.

In the case of the school, what’s to be gained by doing this? You get criticized by the outside of placing these restrictions on a player who wants to move on, and taking this approach to dealing with a player can hurt recruiting down the line. They’d be better off simply allowing the player to move on while focusing on those who want to be a part of the program.