By JOEL COLEMAN
We interrupt the barrage of football stories in recent days to bring you a glance at the hardwood. Starkville’s own Gavin Ware is doing all he can to make sure the Mississippi State men’s basketball team has a big first year under new coach Ben Howland. Ware’s story is below.
Gavin Ware determined to have a big senior year
By JOEL COLEMAN
It seems to have all gone so fast for Gavin Ware.
Not that long ago, Ware was blocking shots and rattling the rim at the Beehive as a Starkville Yellowjacket. Now, the 6-foot-9 Mississippi State post presence is preparing for his final year as a Bulldog.
“One day, I woke up out of bed and I was like, ‘Hey, this is my last year’,” Ware said on Wednesday. “So I’ve got to give it all I’ve got.”
Up to this point, it has been an up-and-down three years at MSU for Ware. He was named to the 2013 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team in his debut campaign. Ware followed that up by starting all 33 games of his sophomore year and recording a double-double in seven of those contests. By the end of last year, Ware found himself tied with Lawrence Roberts for the 16th-most rebounds in school history (654), while sitting just 99 points shy of becoming the 35th Bulldog to ever reach the 1,000-point mark for a career.
Despite the highs, there is an incredibly glaring low – Ware has never experienced a winning season at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have gone 37-60 overall during Ware’s career, including going just 13-41 in SEC play.
But things have changed this offseason. In March, Mississippi State made waves by dismissing former head coach Rick Ray and hiring Ben Howland. Howland, best known for taking UCLA to three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008, almost immediately brought in one of the nation’s premier recruits when he signed guard Malik Newman.
With Howland at the helm and Newman on board, along with several other additions to the roster, it’s a recipe that could equal success for both MSU as a team, and Ware personally.
“I absolutely love it when we have scorers out there,” Ware said. “That takes all the pressure off me. So when I get the ball, I don’t have to worry about double-teams or triple-teams. I can just get the ball in the post, take a deep breath and then make my move and have a position to score, and then sync in the defense to give my teammates a chance to score.”
It’s not just new a new coach and new offensive threats that could pay dividends for Ware, however. He’s also worked hard to transform his body. Guiding that process has been MSU’s director of basketball performance David Deets.
Deets says it’s obvious that Ware is giving all he has, on and off the court, to make sure his senior year is a success.
“Gavin is a lot leaner,” Deets said. “He’s bought in. I’m watching him eat three times a day. When he’s not with me, he’s texting me what he’s eating. So he’s buying in to what we’re doing and cooking for himself and hydrating the right way and drinking the right things and cutting out the sodas and the sweet tea and the lemonade and drinking the water.”
Deets said Ware is already seeing the benefits of his new eating habits when he practices.
“He’s slimmed up and been able to maintain that muscle mass and been able to get his vertical jump to go up because he’s able to transfer that weight better,” Deets said. “So he’s moving better on the floor. That’s helped him. He sees that already. It helps whenever they see those results that we’ve gotten in such a quick time for them to buy in.”
The physical changes are just part of the package that makes up this new and improved version of Ware. Ware also says he’s matured mentally, becoming a better teammate, knowing that for him to have the kind of year he wants for his final campaign in maroon and white, he’s going to need plenty of help.
“My first three years, I was kind of distant and laid back,” Ware said. “Now I’m more into it. Since it’s my last year I’ve got to be more in tune with the guys and let them know that we’ve got to make a big push this season.”