Freshman guards Kanon Gipson and David Hill gather for a timeout during the Nov. 5 scrimmage against Newman.

Missouri State University’s Men’s Basketball team is welcoming six freshmen to the team. With the team having new members, head coach Dana Ford is looking forward to the season and what they can bring to the court. 

The team has six newcomers; Kanon Gipson, Damien Mayo Jr., Jonathan Dunn, Tommy Pinegar, David Hill and N.J. Benson along with returners and transfers. The team has put in a lot of work towards practice over the past few months. 

Ford has seen a few pleasant surprises. One surprise is the competitiveness and the impact of winning from freshman guard, Damien Mayo. 

Along with Mayo, transfer sophomore guard from the University of Oklahoma Alston Mason has shown Ford that he has good playmaking abilities transitioning to Missouri State.

Ford goes further in-depth on how the team overall has made some improvements and adjustments along the pre-season, though there are a few disappointments in some areas from Ford’s point of view. 

“We’re not a very physical team at the moment, not a very tough team.” Ford said. “I would not say from a defensive rebounding standpoint we look like a Valley team yet, but we’re going to get there.” 

Granted with the new faces, to Ford, it is a different off-season than the previous. There’s a lot more teaching to be done and more options for the team to do, and he is very pleased with the amount of leadership that has been casted from both returners and transfers. 

Along with the returners,  transfers have been able to be a helping hand towards the freshman and guide them in order for all of them to have the taste of the Valley.

Transfer sophomore guard Alston Mason immediately saw that the team wants to win and get over the bumps in the road. After some time, he’s seen huge growth in the team’s chemistry on and off the court and believes that he and the team will be able to win together. 

“We’ve come so far from when we first came in to now  understanding how to play together, understanding where each other are on the floor,” Mason said. “I feel like we’ve established a lot more cohesiveness to win more games. We’re still working on it, but we’re at a good point to where we understand who we are and where we’re trying to get to.” 

Returners, such as sophomore guard Raphe Ayres, view the freshmen’s first year as a journey to see who you are as an individual. They’re able to give the freshmen advice, support them, and try to lead them in the right direction while also letting them figure out who they are and become the best version of themselves. 

“For the freshmen, seeing them start their progression and how quickly they grow and change with the short amount of time in college I think is a very special thing,” Ayres said. “I think that we have a good group of freshmen and transfers too that have caught on and are doing a good job of learning how it goes here.” 

From the returners to the transfers to the freshmen, each individual is looking forward to this season, as well as Ford. He trusts his staff in the midst of the game and knows that trust and proving winners is what they have in their office. 

There are mistakes that will need fixing, but he sees that the team understands what it takes to get to where they want to be during and by the end of the season. 

“Our guys want to win, they understand what it takes to win,” Ford said. “They’ve got to believe, they’ve got to want to be a part of it and you’ve got to be selling a good product and we feel like we are. This group is a fun group to coach, it really is.” 

The Bears will have their first game at home against Missouri S&T on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.


Follow Jade Morrow on Twitter, @JadeMorrow15

Subscribe to The Standard's free weekly newsletter here.