Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
MSU’s Ready set to go against UA
Auburn point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen (13) defends as Mississippi State guard I.J. Ready (15) shoots during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Julie Bennett)
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray said that as the team’s best perimeter shooter and passer, freshman point guard I.J. Ready needs to be more aggressive with the ball.
“He wants to facilitate, and we need him to be a guy that tries to break the defense down and score, or at least do something that leads to a score,” Ray said. “Our team sorely needs that.”
Lacking aggressiveness doesn’t figure to be an issue for Ready when the Bulldogs play Arkansas at 3 p.m. today in Humphrey Coliseum.
“It might end up being my best game of the season,” Ready said. “I just want to go get a win and show that they missed out on an opportunity to get a good point guard.”
Ready starred at Little Rock Parkview High School, where he drew some recruiting interest from Arkansas but not a scholarship offer. He signed with Mississippi State in November 2012, deciding to take a sure thing rather than waiting to see if Arkansas made an offer in the spring.
“They were basically saying wait, wait, wait, but I didn’t want to take any chances,” Ready said. “It didn’t seem like they really wanted me.”
Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said he followed Ready’s career at Parkview, where he averaged 21.7 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals his senior season and was named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s All-Arkansas first team.
“I think he’s a very good player, and I’m sure they’re glad to have him at Mississippi State,” Anderson said. “Sometimes, timing is everything.”
Ready, 5-11, 165 pounds, has missed a combined seven games this season because of a hamstring injury, a concussion and a high fever but said he’s feeling good physically.He had 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in 29 minutes in a 92-81 loss at LSU on Wednesday night.
“I’m more comfortable and getting back to playing with a good rhythm,” Ready said.
Ready has played in 19 games, including 14 starts, and is averaging 6.6 points and 2.7 assists in 23.6 minutes. He’s shooting 42.1 percent (16 of 38) on three-point attempts.
“We’ve been really pleased with I.J., because he’s the type of kid who wants to win and he knows how to win,” Ray said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s really conscientious about trying to do the right things, and he has some natural leadership abilities.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world that I.J. Ready is going to be a quality SEC basketball player for us.”
Ready’s top scoring SEC games have been 13 points against Ole Miss and 12 against Auburn. He had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 32 minutes against No. 2 Florida.
“Ready is going to be a very, very good point guard,” Gators Coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s got good scoring ability and he’s got good speed.”
Ready originally committed to Nebraska, where Wes Flanigan was an assistant coach. When Flanigan - the son of Parkview Coach Al Flanigan - was hired by Ray as an assistant at Mississippi State after the 2011-12 season, Ready began shifting his interest to the Bulldogs.
A visit to Mississippi State last year convinced him to sign there.
“Obviously, a lot of that credit goes to Wes Flanigan,” Ray said. “I.J. and the people around him felt really comfortable with Wes, and then it was more about those guys getting a chance to meet me and see what I’m all about.”
Ray, a former Clemson assistant, took on a major rebuilding project at Mississippi State. He has a 23-35 record in his second season, and the Bulldogs have lost eight consecutive games to fall to 13-13.
Ready, who played on Parkview teams that were a combined 72-15 and won Class 6A state championships his sophomore and junior seasons, said Mississippi State’s losing streak has been a tough but a valuable learning experience.
“We’re a young team, and we’re staying together and just trying to grind it out,” he said. “We’re still being positive. We’ve got five games left, and we’re trying to get on a winning streak going into the SEC Tournament.”
Today’s game ARKANSAS MEN AT MISSISSIPPI STATE WHEN 3 p.m. Central WHERE Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.
RECORDS Arkansas 17-9, 6-7 SEC.
Mississippi State 13-13, 3-10.
SERIES Arkansas leads 29-25 RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION SEC TV on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KHOG/KHBS, Channels 40/29, in Fayetteville and Fort Smith; and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.
TODAY’S GAMES All times Central Florida at Mississippi, 11 a.m.
Georgia at South Carolina, 12:30 p.m.
Tennessee at Texas A&M, 2 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 3 p.m.
LSU at Kentucky, 3 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Auburn, 5 p.m.
Missouri at Alabama, 7 p.m.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/22/2014