March 10, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State junior center Jarvis Varnado has earned double billing.
For the second consecutive year, Varnado was named the Southeastern Conference''s Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 center also earned a spot on the All-SEC first team.
"It''s a blessing to be Defensive Player of the Year," Varnado said. "It''s a great honor. I''m just trying to get better in practice and not worry about all of the accolades."
Varnado leads the SEC and the nation with 143 blocked shots (4.6 per game). He is 15 blocks shy of breaking the single-season record of 157 he tied last season with former LSU center Shaquille O''Neal.
Varnado has usually been the Bulldogs'' lone defender in the post in the team''s four-guard lineup.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury said Varnado has become a smarter player defensively.
"He has gotten better in that he stays in the games," Stansbury said. "He doesn''t foul out as much. You don''t see him creating so many bad fouls.
"He''s stronger and more disciplined in staying on the floor. We probably ask more of him offensively this year, which, in time, may take something out of him, but I don''t think so. His stats back that up. Yes, he''s better."
Varnado also averages 13 points and nine rebounds per game.
MSU also was represented by point guard Dee Bost (11.5 ppg) on the All-SEC Freshman team. Bost was joined by JaMychal Green of Alabama and Freshman of the Year Terrico White of Ole Miss.
"There are a lot of freshmen that are playing well in this league," Bost said. "I just want to focus and do what it takes to get this team to the NCAA tournament."
White and David Huertas of Ole Miss made the All-SEC second team with Alonzo Gee of Alabama.
Justin Knox of Alabama was voted the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, while the SEC Player of the Year was LSU''s Marcus Thornton. LSU''s Trent Johnson was Coach of the Year.
Stansbury felt the award could have gone to Johnson or to Auburn''s Jeff Lebo, but he didn''t have a problem with the final choice.
"Trent took a veteran team and experienced team coming in, but still took them and won," Stansbury said. "He deserves some credit for that."
Coaches voted on eight member teams for All-SEC first and second teams and for the SEC All-Freshman Team. They voted on a five-player squad for the SEC All-Defensive Team. They were not permitted to vote for their players and ties were not broken.