When Kadar Waller walks around campus, he notices a different energy. When he’s going to class, the junior guard sees posters of the team’s players. And when he gets to the team’s gym, no matter the time of day, he sees teammates working out.
Those might seem like small, relatively innocuous observations for a lot of basketball programs, but for Mississippi Valley State, it’s noteworthy.
For the past couple of years, those posters around campus were outdated, featuring players from seasons past. But now, according to senior guard Terry Collins, the athletic department has a photographer who attends games and most practices.
And the steady flow of players in and out of the gym? That’s new, too.
“There’s a higher sense of urgency,” Waller said. “Everybody’s always in the gym. There’s not a time you walk into the gym and guys aren’t in there getting up extra shots.”
For Mississippi Valley State, each little step matters.
The program has been, arguably, the worst in the country in recent years and is one of the more challenging jobs in Division I. The Delta Devils are the only team in the country to finish in the bottom five nationally at KenPom.com in each of the past five seasons. They’ve finished last in the SWAC each of the past four seasons and they’re 4-48 over the past two campaigns.
There needs to be context, however. In a 2019 poll conducted by Stadium, SWAC coaches considered it the most difficult job in the league — ranking it last in both budget/resources and recruiting base.
Despite the many challenges for the historically Black university, it’s a program with a considerable amount of men’s basketball tradition. Located in the Mississippi Delta in the northwest part of the state, the Delta Devils have been to five NCAA tournaments and won six conference championships, last winning both in…