Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele Lands in the Dog HousePosted by Brian Joyce on February 12th, 2013
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.
It’s no secret that Mississippi State coach Rick Ray needs all the help he can get. The Bulldogs are on an eight-game losing streak in the SEC, the longest such streak for MSU since 1987. Ray’s team was already down to seven scholarship players for the season before word came down over the weekend that guard Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely. That’s enough misfortune to make anybody lose their cool, which Ray eventually did. And that makes what Steele did, whatever it was, even more frustrating considering how badly his team needs him right now.
It was no surprise initially when Ray chose not to comment on Steele’s situation. Chastising your players publicly is not standard operating procedure. But just like when you were little and you knew you really messed up when your dad told you “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed,” Steele has to know this was a colossal mistake. On Monday, Ray let his frustration over the situation boil over. “Now you’re taking away a chance for guys to go out and compete and win because you’ve shortened the rotation,” Ray said about his disappointment in Steele. “I think more than anything you’re screwing your team and you’re screwing your teammates when you get into trouble like that.”
Steele is averaging 9.5 points per game, but Ray just doesn’t look to his junior guard for points. What the Bulldogs really need right now is a leader. “The thing that’s disappointing for me as far as our disciplinary issues is our freshmen need somebody to look up to, and right now, to be honest with you, we just don’t have that,” he said. “That’s been a problem, because these guys are coming into the program, and they’re looking for an experienced guy to show them the way, and we just haven’t had that.” While we still don’t know what Steele did to deserve this punishment, we know he has already suffered quite a bit in mental anguish. Like any other 20-year old student these days, he took to Twitter to sort through his feelings.
The complaints for a competitive product have been loud and clear in Starkville. And in an era of college basketball where ethics are not always the top priority, seeing a coach hold a key player accountable for his off-court actions is impressive. Knowing how desperately Ray could use a scorer, leader, and experienced player on the roster right now makes his decision to put Steele on the sidelines even more telling. Ray is building the Mississippi State program his way, and in the long run, it will be well worth the current struggles. However, knowing all that makes Steele’s indiscretion even more frustrating.