Friday, October 30, 2009

Stansbury bounces in at Rotary

With the 2009 college basketball season looming and the start of practice around the corner, Mississippi State Men's Head Basketball Coach Rick Stansbury found time to stop by the West Point Rotary Club on Thursday.

Stansbury, whose team won the 2008 Southeastern Conference Tournament, spoke about last year's accomplishments and the future of the program. He accredited much of the team's success to senior forward Jarvis Varnardo and his father Winston Varnado, head boy's basketball coach at West Point High School.
"My job became a lot easier this year because of one person and his father," Stansbury said. "He deserves a lot of credit for what he did. Because a lot of young men don't have parents. (Others) don't have parents who will be patient and make the decision that will be best in the long run."
Varnado, who originally declared for the 2009 NBA draft, decided to return to Mississippi State for his senior year after consulting his father and others. Not only did Varnado decide to return for his senior season, but he gave up his scholarship to benefit the school's recruiting.
Jarvis has progressed exceptionally well since his freshman year in Starkville, Stansbury said.
“When he first came in three years ago, he was about 180 pounds,” he said. “He would play about 8 to 10 minutes and foul out. Now, he's going into his senior year and has the chance to do something no other college player has ever done. Think about all the great players: Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaq (O'neal). Jarvis has the opportunity to become the all-time NCAA shot block record holder.”
The 6-foot-9-inch Varnado, who has a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, needs 141 blocks to surpass Louisiana-Monroe's Wojciech Mydra as the NCAA shot block record holder. He has averaged 161 blocks over the previous two seasons. Also, Varnado is only 19 blocks from passing Shaquille O'Neal as the SEC shot block leader.
Stansbury talked about each of the team's key returning players. One of those key players was Kodi Augustus, who began the 2008 season as a starter but was benched later in the year.
“I expected big things from Kodi last year, but it didn't happen as quick as we wanted it to,” he said. “But I anticipate big things from him this year.”
Augustus fought his way back into the lineup and made a significant impact in the SEC and NCAA tournament. Augustus' troubles were because of lack of understanding, Stansbury said.
Kodi is a great kid,” he said. “He just had a lack of understanding. I remember when (Kodi) came to me and said 'coach you knew when you recruited me I couldn't defend and rebound.”
Rebounding has been a thorn in the sides of the Bulldogs since the departure of Charles Rhodes. Outside of Varnado's 8.8 rebounds per game last season, the team suffered from the absence of a second big man.
The Bulldogs are also suffering from several injuries, Stansbury said. Elgin Bailey, who played a vital reserve role in 2008, will likely be out for the season with a dislocated ankle. Also, backup guard Twany Beckham will be out for the season with an injured hip.
Reserve players like Bailey and Beckham are important to the Bulldogs success, Stansbury said.
“The key to your team is not who starts,” he said. “It's those sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth guys. Those are the guys who make the difference in winning championships.”
Attempting to play a key role off the bench will be Noxubee native Shaunessy Smith and Alabama born newcomer Wendell Lewis. Lewis, who is listed as a 3-star native by, has a bright future ahead, Stansbury said.
“Two years from now, people are going to look up and say where did this guy come from,” he said. “He reminds me of Charles Rhodes a little bit.”
Rhodes, who left Starkville before earning his degree, returned and completed his education several week ago. Rhodes is one of many Bulldog basketball players to earn a degree. Mississippi State has graduated 78 percent of its players, which puts them second in the SEC behind Vanderbilt.
Along with excelling in the classroom, Stansbury has brought a winning spirit to Starkville. During his 11-year tenure, only two SEC teams have won more games than the Bulldogs – Kentucky and Florida.
The Rotary Club will be tying in their Nov. 5 meeting with the grand opening of the Ritz.

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