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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    MSU basketball player analysis: Frontcourt breakdown

    After Jarvis Varnado decided to opt out of the NBA draft to return for his senior season, expectations at State exploded.
    Not only did he stay at home, but he is paying to do it, offering to neglect his free tuition to open up a roster spot.
    Who needs Erick Dampier?
    In all likelihood, Varnado will go down in history as MSU’s greatest defensive player.
    After leading the nation with a 170 blocks last year, the two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year will likely swat 142 more, which will earn him the NCAA’s all-time block record.
    “What a great story it is for him. Imagine this: A young man came here at 180 pounds as a freshman. He’d play about 8 minutes and foul out,” Stansbury said. “But think now he has a chance to do something no other college player in the history of the game has ever done. There’s not enough publicity about that.”
    Expect Varnado’s offensive game to continue to develop as well. He went from averaging 4.2 points as a freshman to 7.9 as a sophomore to 12.9 as a junior. Also, don’t forget about the 31 he dropped on LSU on Feb. 11 last year.
    “His freshman and sophomore year he was playing with Charles Rhodes, and Charles Rhodes was our go-to guy that got most of those shots around that paint,” Stansbury said. “Last year I think everybody saw his abilities come out. He’s got nice hands in there; he’s quick around that hole.”
    Kodi Augustus could be the surprise player of the SEC this season.
    At 6’8″, 220 pounds, he has the speed and control to drive the lane and plenty of touch behind the arc.
    Augustus began last year as a starter, but rarely played during midseason due to attitudinal issues.
    However, he got his act together, coming on strong the last nine games, including the SEC Tournament, averaging 10.5 points during that span – including two 19-point efforts.
    “He found ways mentally to understand that if he wants to play, he’s gotta do those things that he has to do to play. He’s gotta become more aggressive defensively. He’s gotta rebound the basketball more. He’s gotta play hard,” Stansbury said. “He deserves all the credit for it because he hung in there with us. I saw it happening in practice.”
    Romero Osby was expected to make a bigger splash than he did as a freshman, averaging just 4.1 points per game and 2.6 rebounds.
    However, in an Oct. 24 innersquad scrimmage, he made quite a statement: 31 points from 9-of-11 shooting, 7 rebounds and a perfect 5-of-5 from behind the arc.
    Being interchangeable as a small forward or power forward, expect Osby to continue to develop and add quality depth with his versatility.
    “I think Romero Osby’s going to become a really good player in time. He’s got the right attitude and work ethic, and he just has to work on perimeter skills. He’s gotten better, and he is much better this year,” Stansbury said.
    It seems clear MSU will not need to be fully dependent on guard heavy lineup this year, especially with the Augustus’ flexible skill set as a power forward.
    However, the full landscape of MSU’s frontcourt remains a mystery.
    With bruiser Elgin Bailey seeming more and more likely to be out for the season with an ankle injury he sustained late last year, either John Riek or Wendell Lewis, both new comers, will have to back up Varnado.
    John Riek, a Sudanese freshman who was once rated Scout.com’s No. 1 center, was forced to put his NBA plans on hold due to a debilitating knee injury.
    The 7’2″ center – with a 7’9″ wing span – will have to sit out the first nine games due to his previous amateur status but could fortify State’s shot-blocking traditions if he ever regains full mobility – or more importantly, if he can adjust to the speed of the game.
    “He’s never practiced in his life. He came here from Sudan at summertime and played AAU basketball. Then, he goes to prep school less than three weeks and hurts his knee. So he’s never had a practice,” Stansbury said. “He’s got a long way to go yet. He’s faced off with a couple challenges right now that only time is going to heal. You talk about ball screens … free throw line extended, all that. Just things you take for granted kids know, I mean it’s just absolutely foreign to him.”
    The possible impact of Lewis, a 6’9″, 245-pound signee from Selma, Ala., is a bit murky.
    A 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Lewis grabbed 8 rebounds in only 13 minutes in Saturday’s scrimmage against Oklahoma City, which the Bulldogs won 82-54.
    Hinting Lewis may be a hidden gem, not unlike Brandon Vincent who played for State from 2002-04, Stansbury said he has a great frame and deceptive mobility for his size.
    “The one guy that’s surprised me more than anybody else is Wendell,” he said. “I think he’s one of those guys that mid-sophomore year, people around the league are going to be saying ‘Where did this cat come from?’ He’s one of those guys we’ve been living on in our program.”
    Editors note: If you feel an elephant is bogging down this article, don’t worry: The situation of highly touted freshman forward Renardo Sidney is summarized in a brief story below.
    On Sidney, Stansbury said: “His ability speaks for itself. He’s a versatile big guy. He can play on the block. He can play on the perimeter. His biggest challenges will be getting him in shape and the speed of the game. But his natural understanding of the game, his natural abilities, are things you can’t teach.”

    The Sidney question:

    The biggest question surrounding MSU’s offseason easily was this: Will Renardo Sidney play?
    Sidney, a 6’10”, 250-pound Mississippi native, spent the past three years in the Los Angeles area, playing center for Fairfax High School during his junior and senior season.
    He averaged 23.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots his senior year of high school, leading the Lions to a 27-5 record.
    After suspicion arose about how the Sidney’s afforded housing in the Los Angeles area, USC withdrew its commitment to the heralded prospect, opening the door for MSU to sign him in late April.
    Ever since, the McDonald All-American’s amateur status has been in question, sparking a tired saga between NCAA compliance officials and Sidney’s attorney Donald Jackson.
    As of Friday, Jackson allowed NCAA officials to inspect deposit information for all family bank accounts in a meeting in Montgomery, Ala., where Jackson’s offices are located.
    This development could prompt the NCAA to make its final decision on Sidney’s eligibility by the end of the week.
    If Sidney is allowed to play, he will be the second McDonald’s All-American to dress out in Maroon and White – the first being Mario Austin. If not, he will join a long list of major talents that slipped away from the Bulldogs, including NBA players Travis Outlaw and Montae Ellis.

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    MSU basketball player analysis: Frontcourt breakdown