Mississippi State's Jessika Carter returns to women's basketball team, participating in individual workouts

Mississippi State's Jessika Carter, who shared her struggles with depression on social media in December, is enrolled at the school and doing individual workouts, women's basketball interim coach Doug Novak said Thursday.

Carter was on the Bulldogs' bench for the team's 77-62 victory over Missouri in Starkville, Mississippi, and Novak addressed her status on a postgame video call with media.

"She's doing a fantastic job," Novak said. "Right now she's with the team, but we don't have her practicing. She'll watch film with us and some of those things. Her workouts are fantastic; she's really getting after it. She'll be eligible to play next season."

Carter said in an Instagram post Dec. 7 that she had been helped "out of a very dark space" after two attempts at taking her own life, one in July and the other in November.

Carter, a forward/center, was an All-SEC second-team selection after averaging 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds last season as a junior. She was arrested in September on a simple assault charge for allegedly hitting a 19-year-old woman in the face on Aug. 28, according to records obtained by The Clarion-Ledger. The newspaper reported Thursday that her trial date was Feb. 1.

Mississippi State has faced other difficulties in the past few months, as coach Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down for health reasons in October, and Novak -- who had been hired as an assistant in September -- was then elevated to interim head coach.

On Monday, junior forward Rickea Jackson, the SEC's leading scorer who had averaged 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in 15 games this season for the Bulldogs, announced on Instagram that she was leaving the program and entering the transfer portal.

Mississippi State (12-7) had lost three consecutive games prior to Jackson's departure, but made a season-high 14 3-pointers in Thursday's victory.

"It just showed incredible focus," Novak said. "You can choose to follow the distractions or focus on the task at hand. And obviously, our team choose the latter."