Rick Ray's inaugural season of misfortune

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
4:15
PM ET
On Thursday night, I received a text message from Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray. The first-year leader for the Bulldogs didn’t waste any time as he addressed the unfortunate matter at hand.

“Can’t make this up! Jalen Steele tore his ACL [Wednesday night]. That’s FOUR season ending knee injuries.”

I just shook my head.

Mississippi State has been through as much -- if not more -- than any team in America. Ray’s first season has been a rough one.

The Bulldogs have struggled in large part because they’re so shorthanded. But Steele was a bright spot for the program. He was averaging 10.1 PPG, and he’d scored 17 points before he was injured in the final minutes of a loss at South Carolina on Wednesday evening.

From Brandon Marcello of the Clarion Ledger:
Mississippi State junior guard Jalen Steele suffered ligament damage in his right knee Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season, a school spokesman confirmed today.

Steele was injured in the second half of the Bulldogs’ 79-72 loss Wednesday at South Carolina. The Knoxville, Tenn., native averaged 10.1 points per game this season. He missed eight games in December with a fractured wrist.

Steele will have surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus following the school’s spring break.

“I feel for Jalen because he was starting to find his way in our offense and his role on our team after missing eight games with his wrist injury earlier in the season,” MSU coach Rick Ray said in a statement release via his Twitter account. “Jalen was coming off of back to back double-figure scoring games with 10 points vs. Ole Miss and 17 points vs. South Carolina before he was injured. Jalen has been through this before and handled it like a champ, and I know that he will come back again with the same winning results.”

MSU (8-21, 3-14 SEC) has suffered through a series of unprecedented injuries during coach Rick Ray’s first season in Starkville. Four Bulldogs, including Steele, have suffered season-ending knee injuries since his arrival last spring.

Steele suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee (ACL) in January 2011.

Are you kidding me?

I mean, how much can one program endure? This season, Ray has been forced to use a former scout-team player for the MSU women’s team. A grad assistant who helped him in practice tore an ACL.

It’s very easy to skim the bottom of the conference standings in any league and assume that those squads lack talent or drive or discipline. And in some situations that’s certainly accurate.

But there are also programs such as Mississippi State -- teams that have faced a series of unfortunate events that have magnified its challenges and interrupted its aspirations.

It’s easy for any coach/player/team to suggest that “it can’t get any worse.” But Ray’s situation proves that it can. Tough year for that team.
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