First year Mississippi State coach Rick Ray took advantage of the early signing period on Wednesday and landed three outstanding players who are expected to contribute immediately next season - Imara Ready, Travis Daniels and Quantel Denson.
Ready is a 5-foot-11 guard out of Little Rock whose high school coach Al Flanigan is the father of MSU assistant Wes Flanigan. Denson, a native of Grandview, Mo., is currently a power forward at Mineral Area Community College, while Daniels is a forward at Shelton State.
"First of all, I want to commend my staff for putting together a terrific recruiting class," Ray said. "Wes, George (Brooks), and Chris (Hollender) all played significant roles in us recruiting and landing these outstanding student-athletes. It is rare in this business that you identify your top targets and are able to recruit and sign those same top targets, and my staff was successful in getting it done."
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Ready has led Parkview Magnet High School to back-to-back Arkansas 6A State Championship titles the last two years. In the 2012 title game, he paced Parkview with 21 points, five assists and four steals in a 69-65 double-overtime victory.
"A lot of people missed IJ because of his size," Flanigan said. "I think he is a guy that can play right away. He is hard nosed and always gives it everything he has. I.J. is just a great person on and off the court."
As a junior, Ready averaged 20.1 points, 5.2 assists and four steals. A year earlier, Ready registered 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds a contest as a sophomore.
During the summer of 2012, Ready played for coach Billy Ingram's Arkansas Hawks AAU program. The Hawks claimed runner-up honors at the prestigious Adidas Fab 48 in Las Vegas, while Ready averaged 25 points and seven assists during the summer.
Ready also held offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas Tech and Arkansas-Little Rock.
"He's just a flat out winner," Ray said. "I.J. has a competitive fire and spirit that will really help our team next year and for years to come. I am excited about the talent and intangibles he will provide for us. Our team will love playing with him because he is a consummate play maker.
Daniels will add much needed experience to the young Bulldog squad.
During his freshman campaign at Shelton State, Daniels lead coach Barry Mohun's Buccaneers to a 28-4 record and a runner-up finish in the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament.
So far this season, he's averaging 17 points and 4 rebounds as his team has posted a 2-0 ledger.
The 6-8 forward prepped at Russellville High School where he averaged a double-double his senior year. As a junior, he played at Woodrow Wilson High School, leading the team in points per game (18.8) and rebounds per game (3.0).
The Russellville, Ala., native selected the Bulldogs over Southern Miss, Western Kentucky and Wichita State.
"Travis is a young man that can dribble, pass, and shoot," Ray said. "It seems simple but not many players at his size can do all three equally well. He is a jack of all trades that can play multiple positions and affect the game in many ways. Travis has a good basketball IQ and that will serve our team well."
Denson, a 6-foot-9 forward, spent his freshman year at Hutchinson Community College in Kan., before transferring to Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills, Mo., this past year.
"He's a great person and a hard worker," Mineral Area head coach Corey Tate said. "He'll brighten up your day."
The Cardinals were victorious in five of the six games Denson has played this year, highlighted by the 225-pounder's two game-winning shots.
"This kid can really shoot the three well and knows how to handle the ball," Tate said.
Prior to his college journey, Denson was ranked fourth in the state as a senior at Grandview High School. The standout averaged 14.4 poin ts and 9.5 rebounds per game during his last year for the Bulldogs, tallying 316 points on the season.
"Quantel is a rare talent because of his versatility, skill and length," Ray said. "He can do a lot of different things on the court that will help your team win. He is a match-up problem for the opposing team because of his unique gifts. We are excited about what he will bring to the table here for us."