STARKVILLE • Separation anxiety and homesickness are usually two of the biggest dilemmas facing college freshmen.
However for Mississippi State freshman guard Iverson Molinar, independence is nothing new. Molinar left his native Panama at 14 and moved to California on his own to begin his basketball journey in the United States.
“I barely knew English and went to school trying to do all the work,” Molinar said. “I definitely got homesick my first two months, it was terrible. My English wasn’t good and I couldn’t express myself as well as I can now.
“There was just a language barrier coming from speaking Spanish my whole life. It was just a whole different culture for me.”
Molinar soon started to adapt to his new surroundings. His English improved and he grew fond of the fast-food chain, In-N-Out Burger.
“I got addicted to it,” Molinar said. “It got to the point where I was eating that every night for dinner.”
Molinar also found his groove on the court as well. He spent his junior year playing in Marietta, Georgia, before returning to California to finish up his high school career at Veritas Prep.
Molinar was also a member of Team Why Not, the AAU program founded by Russell Westbook and coached by Westbrook’s brother Ray.
MSU’s Ben Howland coached Russell Westbrook while at UCLA and that relationship gave the Bulldogs an advantage as they began to recruit Molinar.
“They were always there and coming to my practices,” Molinar said. “Some schools would contact me and then I wouldn’t hear from them for a week. (MSU) was always there and I’d talk to them. We built a relationship and that was the most important thing for me.”
Molinar has had a huge impact for Mississippi State this season. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has appeared in all 22 games and drawn eight starts. He is averaging 6.7 points and 17.8 minutes per game.
“I think Iverson has really grown as a player,” Howland said. “He’s really, really an incredible talent athletically. He’s made some big plays for us. He can get to the basket it seems like whenever he wants. He’s shooting the ball well and taking good shots.
“He’s still learning the game as a freshman and is really the only true freshman that is playing a significant role for us right now and has handled it well.”
One of Molinar’s best games to date was his debut against Florida International. His parents, Leyza Jones and Manuel Molinar, came all the way from Panama City to Starkville for that game and saw their son start and score 14 points.
“I know they are proud of me for coming here and playing basketball, something that I love,” Molinar said. “I use being away from my family as motivation. It’s not an easy thing coming here as a 14-year old. I just use it as like a chip on my shoulder.”