October 30, 2009 9:20:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Dee Bost has noticed a change.
As a freshman, Bost averaged more than 31 minutes a game and started all 36 games for the Mississippi State men''s basketball team.
And while he was fourth on the team in scoring at 10.9 points per game, Bost didn''t always like how he felt on the court.
"I used to get pushed around," Bost said. "(Opponents would) give me a little nudge and throw me off track."
Opponents will see a different Dee Bost this season thanks to strength and conditioning coach Richard Akins.
Bost, who reported for fall workouts at 174 pounds, has lost 2 to 4 pounds and, more importantly, is stronger and ready for another Southeastern Conference season.
Akins likes how Bost and the rest of the Bulldogs responded to his instruction in the summer and in the fall conditioning periods, and feels they prepared well for the start of two-a-days.
"We''ve had a tough offseason," Akins said. "The guys were responsive and receptive to what we''ve tried to do."
The Bulldogs will put that work to the test at 2 p.m. today when they play host to Oklahoma City in the first of two exhibition games.
Akins said the triumph and failure of last postseason motivated the Bulldogs in the offseason.
MSU won four games to capture the SEC tournament in Tampa, Fla., but lost to the University of Washington 71-58 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Portland, Ore.
"We got started really right after we got back from Portland and they had about a week off," Akins said. "When we started, I told them I want you to remember how you felt in Tampa and Portland. That''s been our thing as we''ve come through the offseason. I think they understand that to win and be successful, you''ve got to put the work in every day."
After the spring semester, Akins said the Bulldogs worked out four days a week through the summer. The players returned in the fall to participate in conditioning drills.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury has noticed a huge difference in Bost and the other Bulldogs, while Akins likes the leadership from seniors Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado.
"We''ve got a group that understands what you''ve got to do to win the championship," Akins said.
Kodi Augustus, one of six juniors, hopes to have made enough strides to get into the starting lineup this season and stay there.
"I did get in better shape and tried to get my body right," Augustus said.
Augustus finished the 2008-09 season strong by averaging 9.8 points and three rebounds a game in the SEC tournament. He scored nine points and had eight rebounds against Washington in the NCAA tournament to earn Chevrolet Player of the Game recognition.
Injuries hampered some Bulldogs during the offseason, so Akins had to identify how far he could push players.
Junior forward Elgin Bailey dislocated his ankle last season and Akins tried to bring him along slowly, while freshman John Riek has responded well after recovering from knee surgery.
"We had no problems with John, and he has a great work ethic," Akins said. "He knows he''s got to get ready to play.
"We worked around Elgin''s ankle as much as we could this summer. We limited the amount of weight we put on him. He did everything. It just wouldn''t have been as heavy as if he hadn''t gotten hurt."
Even though Bailey participate in conditioning on a limited basis, Stansbury isn''t sure if Bailey will play this season.
Sophomore guard Twany Beckham will miss the season after having hip surgery, while junior guard Riley Benock had surgery to correct a stress fracture in his foot. He is expected back this season.
"Riley''s little deal kind of popped up later on," Akins said. "He went through March to May and most of the summer normal. When he had surgery, he was in pretty good shape."