Ben Howland’s first season at Mississippi State was eminently forgettable; the Bulldogs went 14-17, 7-11 in the SEC, and lost to Southern and UMKC in non-conference play.
Recruiting was a different story, though. Howland brought in a seven-man class that 247 Sports ranked #9 in the country. In addition to that, Mississippi State has another freshman who redshirted last year and a transfer who sat out 2015-16. So if you’re keeping score at home, nine players on Mississippi State’s roster will be making their debut for the Bulldogs this year.
Mario Kegler might be the best of that group. A native of Jackson, MS, who played at Oak Hill Academy last year, Kegler was ranked as the #48 prospect in the nation by Rivals, #47 nationally by ESPN, and #52 nationally by 247 Sports. At 6’7”, 230 pounds, Kegler isn’t incredibly athletic, but he has a polished game and has range out to the three-point line. As is often the case, that creates a matchup problem as smaller guards can’t defend him, while coaches may be hesitant to move bigger guys away from the basket.
That said: Kegler looks like the kind of player who may be more useful as a second scoring option rather than a featured scorer. His scoring punch will depend quite a bit on teammates to create for him — or at least to do enough to prevent defenses from keying on him.
How does he fit onto Mississippi State’s roster? Well, as we said, there are nine (nine!) newcomers on the roster, so just about everything is in flux. The question is whether Kegler is going to be asked to be the primary scorer — which is something he’s probably not ready to do as a freshman — or if somebody else is ready to handle that load. Quinndary Weatherspoon showed flashes of that as a freshman, and I.J. Ready is a competent point guard (though not a scorer) — and of course Mississippi State’s other numerous freshmen could step up. But there aren’t a lot of guarantees here, and there seem to be decent odds of Kegler turning into an inefficient volume shooter on a team that doesn’t have a lot of great options in the immediate future.