STARKVILLE, Miss. - Next Friday, Mississippi State officially begins its 99th season of basketball. Saturday, however, fans can catch an early preview when the Bulldogs host Lindsey Wilson in exhibition play, with tip at Humphrey Coliseum slated for 2 p.m.
Saturday also marks the 13th season at the helm for Rick Stansbury, who enters the 2010-11 campaign with 255 wins, 14th most in SEC history.
"Like I've said many a time, this is the time of the year we like as coaches," Stansbury said. "I know where I'm at every day when we go out on that practice floor at 3:00 or 3:30. From March to October, we don't know where we are at every day. And it's different every year putting together a different group of guys, a different group of players. And this year it's even more different without some of your players early.
"So, as always, if you're not excited this time of year, you're probably in the wrong profession."
The Bulldogs are coming off a 24-12 campaign where they won the Western Division crown for the seventh time in school history and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Three starters are back from that team, including seniors Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus. The third starter, Dee Bost, won't be eligible until the SEC portion of the schedule begins Jan. 8 against Alabama.
As a junior, Johnson averaged 13.2 points and drained a career-best 87 3-pointers, the third most in a single season at MSU. He's also just 103 made treys from tying Barry Stewart's school record of 280, and needs just 32 more points to become the 32nd Bulldog player to reach 1,000 for a career.
Augustus averaged 8.9 points a year ago and was second in rebounding (5.4) and blocked shots (35).
Also back are key reserves from a year ago, guard Riley Benock and forwards Wendell Lewis and John Riek. And after sitting all but four games due to a severe ankle injury, junior forward Elgin Bailey returns.
Bailey and Benock were also voted team captains back in October, and both are also expected to draw starts against the Blue Raiders.
"I think he's kind of sat back in Barry Stewart's shadow for three years, and it's his personality to not to be too assertive or too aggressive," Stansbury said of Benock. "But this team needs it. He's smart. Defensively, he's in the right position most of the time. He's a guy that makes the extra pass offensively; he sees the next play happening before it happens."
Lindsey Wilson, under the direction of 9th-year coach Paul Peck, posted a 14-17 ledger last season. They return two starters, including guard Kalen Kimberland, who averaged 10.2 points and dished out 55 assists while collecting 30 steals.