Steele Sees A Bright Future With Bulldog Basketball
By Tyson Rodgers
MSU Media Relations
STARKVILLE, Miss. - When the final horn blew on March 13, 2012, many uncertainties were left on the hardwood.
After losing a heartbreaking game to UMass 101-96 in the first round of the NIT Tournament that night, Mississippi State was left with a 21-12 record and a murky future.
In the weeks that followed, the Bulldog faithful witnessed the retirement of long-time coach Rick Stansbury and the departure of four players, in addition to the three seniors that graduated.
For Jalen Steele, the easy road for the junior guard would have been to follow the exodus from the program, especially considering all the uncertainty that began to unfold.
Yet, the Knoxville native wasn't looking for an easy out. Tough times, he acknowledged, are the true test of character. And he felt he could be a part of something special following the hiring of new coach Rick Ray.
"I sat back and thought about it," said Steele, who has started 22 career games for the Maroon and White. "Wendell (Lewis) and I, we've been here so long, and we worked so hard for what we're about to get next year, and we still have more work to do. I talked to Wendell and told him we're going to stay still and stay strong and stick this out."
Steele should know what it means to fight through adversity.
Late in his freshman year, he suffered a season-ending torn ACL, but fought back to put up impressive numbers his sophomore campaign. The challenge of overcoming the injured knee was just a prelude of challenges for Steele.
"After all I've been through, it's been quite a ride, but I'm here standing strong and ready to move on for another year," Steele said. "Most of the players that played a lot, they're gone and it is time for us to step up and accept big roles. I'm going to accept this role and make the most out of it."
A new coach, new players and a new mentality are what the sweeping changes from last season brought to Starkville. Steele can feel the positives from those changes already as he gets a welcomed new breath of fresh air.
"It is a great feeling knowing we don't have to worry about who is going to go where," Steele said. "Now we can work with the group that's here."
It's a group that's swelled significantly as Ray's recruiting trails have landed four signees - guards Andre Applewhite, Jacoby Davis and Trivante Bloodman and JUCO All-American forward Colin Borchert. It's the type of class, Steele said, that will be the foundation to what he expects to be a great program under the direction of Ray.
"Now it's our time, everybody that's still here," said Steele, who averaged 8.7 points and was second on the team last year with 70 3-pointers. "So we've got to come up and show people that we can play also and that we can prove everybody wrong and win games next year."
With his hard work and dedication, along with Ray's relentless efforts in recruiting, that once murky future looks more clear with each passing day.