Mississippi State hasn’t gotten to the top of the women’s college basketball world on the back of one person.
Head coach Vic Schaefer and his staff had the vision to make the Bulldogs a winner in the Southeastern Conference and beyond, but he had to have the players. When he got those players, every one of them seemed to do their part in leading MSU to more and more wins each season.
Last year that led to a 34-5 record and a trip to the national championship game where MSU lost to South Carolina 67-55. The biggest win of all, of course, came against the mighty UConn Huskies 66-64 when MSU shocked the world.
That night it was little Morgan William who took the spotlight and deservedly so, but everyone played a role in getting the team there.
That includes a couple of Coast bench players who produced down the stretch. Backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes averaged just 2.7 points per game but was second on the team with 98 assists as a junior and her ball game in the second round of the NCAA Tourney helped spark a run by the Bulldogs.
The former Harrison Central standout played 25 minutes and scored 14 points and had six assists in a career game against DePaul in and helped lift the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16. She played 17 minutes in the national championship game against South Carolina where she scored six points.
This year she’s looking for more.
“I want to try to develop myself into a leader,” Holmes said. “I want to win at turnovers and be more consistent for my team. I need to grow up a little bit and try to do things coach Schaefer asks of me.”
Schaefer has seen Holmes already make strides in these departments. He’s relying heavily on the former Harrison Central star to be a critical piece to his team this season and lead them back to the Final Four.
“Jazzmun Holmes has probably improved as much or more than anyone on our basketball team,” Schaefer said. “She and Morgan are really pushing each other, along with Myah (Taylor) everyday.”
As Holmes’ role increases, so does sophomore forward Ameshya Williams.
The former all-state player from West Harrison got experience as a freshman but not nearly as much as she will gain this year. With the loss of veterans Ketara Chapel and Breanna Richardson, that opens the door for youngsters like Williams, Australian freshman Chloe Bibby and junior college player Jonika Garvin.
Luckily for Williams, she feels she was prepared by those ahead of her.
“It’s very different this year because I’ve got a big role to play this year and don’t have anyone to follow since Ketara and Bre are gone,” Williams said. “They basically guided me through everything and helped me with the environment in the SEC.”
Williams averaged just 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in 27 games this year but did get playing time in key games like Troy in the first round of the tournament when she scored 15 points in nine minutes with five rebounds and two blocked shots.
She has shown versatility and tenacity that has Schaefer thinking of opportunities to play her even more. That includes moving her down to center.
“Ameshya needs to play some five for me. I think if you play Ameshya and Teaira together, you have some size and length that could create some problems; but the problem is, you can’t afford to get either one of them in foul trouble,” he said. “You have to pick and choose when you play them together.”
MSU will host Arkansas-Fort Smith in an exhibition at 6 p.m. Friday before opening the season Nov. 10 against Virginia.