Paging Mr. Turner

By Jeff Lippman - October 25, 2007


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury has a new toy to play with for this year. Except unlike if the Bulldogs hung out at Cheers, nobody knows his name.

Phil Turner is a redshirt freshman, one of seven newcomers to the team this season, and he can flat out shoot. While most people are discussing Louisville transfer Brian Johnson - and with good reason - Stansbury is very excited about Turner.

"Phil Turner, he's the one that nobody is talking about, doesn't know much about," the 10-year coach said. "Wasn't recruited, I think he has a chance to be very good for us. He's one of our best shooters. We had a scrimmage the other day and he led it in scoring. He can really shoot the jump shot."

But just like everyone else, MSU's players had Brian Johnson on their minds.

"With the freshman we have now, we have a lot of depth, including Brian Johnson, the transfer from Louisville," said senior forward/center Charles Rhodes. "With Brian Johnson, he's healthier than what he was at Louisville, I expect big things out of him. Everybody wants to know aboout him. He's a good player, he just needs to work a little harder."

Stansbury loves Johnson, but agrees, he is badly in need of returning to basketball shape and must before he really becomes a factor for the Bulldogs.

NIT Semis

Coach Stansbury still can't believe his team missed out on the NCAA Tournament last season. With a record of 21-14 and 8-8 in the SEC West, good enough to tie for the lead in the conference, the Bulldogs just missed making the Big Dance.

"I guess we are probably the first team in history to win 20 games, get a share of the West in our conference and not make the NCAA Tournament," the coach said.

But Rhodes looks at the whole experience as a positive, not only saying the team will play with a chip on its shoulder this year, but also because the experience they gained playing in the postseason invitational was invaluable.

"It means a lot to us because we were one game away from making it [NCAA Tournament] and losing to Arkansas and then getting beat in the NIT, the whole team keeps that in the back of our head for motivation," Rhodes said. "We'll never forget that moment. That's why we're pushing so hard this year to make sure, not only that we make the tournament, but that we make some noise in the tournament.

"I think we gained a lot of experience with that because we played a lot of good teams like Florida State, like West Virginia."

Junior guard/forward Jamont Gordon, who led the Bulldogs in scoring last season, had this to add about the team's experience gained from the NIT.

"We gained a lot of experience," Gordon said. "We played against a lot of different teams from outside our conference and we know we'll have different matchups. We know what we have to do when we play against teams like that now. We know how much it takes, how hard you have to work, we gained a lot of experience from that."

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:42 AM on October 25, 2007
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