Howland Thankful to Huskers for Hoops Game
Coach Ben Howland had the idea of his Mississippi State men’s basketball team playing an impromptu exhibition basketball game, with the sole reason to help raise money to benefit victims of Hurricane Irma.
Howland only needed an available, formidable last-minute opponent, and he found a willing participant, thanks to a friend and former colleague.
That’s why the Nebraska men’s basketball team, in a head start to its 2017-18 season, will travel to Mississippi State on Sunday to play the Bulldogs in an exhibition, Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm announced Wednesday.
Boehm held the same position at Pittsburgh when Howland coached the Panthers from 1999-2003, and the two have remained close over the years.
“I called Marc immediately when I found out this was feasible,” Howland said in a phone interview. “Marc and I have a very close relationship. I really appreciate him helping us in making this happen.”
Admission is free for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at the 10,575-seat Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi.
“We’ll have a nice crowd here because of that,” Howland said. “When you mention the word ‘free,’ that’s a winner. We’ll raise some money.”
While admission is free, representatives from the MSU Student Relief Fund and the Salvation Army will be collecting monetary donations to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Howland and Nebraska coach Tim Miles are also making a joint contribution.
The game, cleared by the NCAA, is in addition to Nebraska’s home exhibition game against Northwood and its closed scrimmage.
“Hurricane Irma was a devastating storm which affected many people in the Southeast and in the Caribbean,” Nebraska Coach Tim Miles said. “Our goal is that we can raise a lot of money for those who need it and have a great time competing against Coach (Ben) Howland and his team. It is a great platform for our two programs to raise awareness and help people in need. We look forward to Sunday afternoon and it should be an exciting game.”
Howland said he’s happy to be able to help people who’ve been devastated by late summer hurricanes that struck hardest in Texas and Florida.
“I am so grateful to the University of Nebraska, to Coach Miles, and to the Athletics Department for their willingness to come down here and support this. It’s incredibly generous of the Nebraska basketball program. We’re excited it’s going to be a great jump start to both of our seasons.
“I have a great friendship with Coach Miles. I just think he’s not only a great coach, but a wonderful person. We coached against each other when he was at Colorado State. We were lucky to beat them when I was at UCLA (75-63 in Los Angeles) with a Final Four team. He’s a very good coach and has done a great job.”
Howland didn’t want his friendships with Boehm and Miles to go by without also mentioning another strong relationship he has with the newest member of the Nebraska Athletics Department.
“I think you are getting a great athletic director in Bill Moos,” Howland said of the Huskers’ new Director of Athletics, who begins his job Monday. “I know him from my years in the Pac-10 when he was at Oregon and I was at UCLA, as well as when he moved to Washington State. I think the fans are going to be thrilled to have his leadership for your athletic program moving forward.
“I love Bill. This is a home run and a great hire. He’s big time. Love him.”
Howland is in his third season at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs return four starters from a 16-16 team, with 6-4 guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and 6-foot guard Lamar Peters their top returning scorers.
Weatherspoon, a junior from Canton, Mississippi, led MSU by averaging 16.5 points. He earned second-team All-SEC honors, and also led the Bulldogs with 50 steals and 926 minutes played.
Peters, a sophomore from New Orleans, was second with his 10.7 scoring average and led MSU with 59 made 3-pointers.
Weatherspoon and Peters will represent Mississippi State at this week’s SEC Media Day on Wednesday in Nashville.
Nebraska returns junior guard Glynn Watson Jr. and senior guard Evan Taylor as starting players from a 12-19 team that welcomes a plethora of new, talented players and high expectations under Miles, entering his sixth season.
Watson averaged 13.1 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals last season, while Taylor started the final 21 games of the season and averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds. The duo will represent Nebraska at Big Ten Media Day on Thursday in New York.
Sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga started nine games a true freshman, and junior Jack McVeigh, with starting experience, averaged 8.9 points per game on 41 percent shooting over the final 15 games off the bench.
Sophomore wing Isaiah Roby returns bigger and stronger after playing in 30 games, with four starts, and senior guard Anton Gill has been cleared to return after missing last season with a knee injury.
Newcomers Isaac Copeland, Nana Akenten, Thomas Allen James Palmer Jr. and Duby Okeke will give the Huskers a vastly different look, and an October road test against a Power 5 Conference team will give Miles an early indication of where his team is ahead of the Nov. 11 season opener against Eastern Illinois.
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