MSU going big by signing 7-foot-2 Riek

May 6, 2009

Danny P Smith -


Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury understands that there is no such thing anymore as a quiet offseason. 


This year, it seems to be louder than usual. 


First, junior center Jarvis Varnado applied for early entry into the National Basketball Association draft. 


Then this past Thursday, Mississippi State signed McDonald''s All-American Renardo Sidney, from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. 


Now it looks like Mississippi State is on the verge of signing 7-foot-2 center John Riek, of Khartoun, Sudan, via IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla. 


Mississippi State has certainly had the wheels turning. 


"We''re used to dealing with it," Stansbury said last month. "It makes it a little easier knowing we don''t have to sign four or five guys." 


By signing players with the talent of Sidney and Riek, the impact may be greater than if MSU had signed four or five players.  


Riek, who originally committed to the University of Cincinnati, has apparently opted to join the Bulldogs instead. His signing won''t become official until Mississippi State receives his paperwork, which could be as soon as today. 


Riek''s signing would put the Bulldogs two scholarships over the limit of 13, which would effect two players on the current roster. 


If Varnado is drafted and he signs with an NBA team, that would free up one scholarship. 


It was a year ago that Riek considered the NBA himself after one year of prep school at Winchendon (Mass.) Academy. Previous to that, he attended Our Savior New American School in Long Island, N.Y. 


Riek caught the eye of NBA scouts during the Lebron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, in July 2007. 


"The NBA scouts who saw him down there told me that he was, besides Roy Hibbert, the second best center prospect draftable," Winchendon coach Mike Byrnes told 


Riek decided to pull out of the NBA Draft and attend IMG Academy, where he was instructed by Dan Barto. 


During a typical day at IMGA, Riek participated in various exercises based on his physical weaknesses; an individualized, movement-based weight-training program; position-specific on-the-court workouts; and shot or live play. 


Riek can touch the rim while standing flat-footed, and Barto believes Riek can make a difference wherever he lands with a little more instruction. 


"Though not as gifted offensively, John''s aggressiveness and tenacity combined with his unmatched wingspan (7-8 1/2) clearly separated him and the way he affects the game," Barto said in a release by IMGA. "He is a staple on our campus. His engaging smile and courteousness toward people involved in his development is refreshing. We talk about being a ''pro'' and John typifies that in the way he has handled his business here at IMGA."