Prep rivals will meet again in NCAA opener

March 19, 2009

Danny P Smith -


Mississippi State freshman point guard Dee Bost would take another 20-point win against his old prep school rival this afternoon. 


Bost was at Hargrave Military School when he played against Isaiah Thomas at South Kent School in Connecticut. 


Thomas is now a freshman point guard at the University of Washington, MSU''s opponent at 3:45 p.m. today (WCBI) in the first round of the NCAA tournament West Regional in Portland, Ore. 


Bost hopes his familiarity with Thomas will help him and his teammates against the No. 4 seeded Huskies. 


"It helps because I know some of his tendencies," Bost said. "Even though our team beat his by 20 (points), we both played hard, so it was a pretty equal matchup." 


Bost remembers Thomas as a scoring point guard in prep school, which apparently hasn''t changed. 


Thomas (15.4 points per game) leads Washington (25-8) in scoring and brings better numbers to the NCAA tournament than Bost (11.1 ppg.). 


That might motivate Bost. 


"He''s got range and sometimes shoots 3s, but when I played him last year, he''d go to the hole more," Bost said. "You are supposed to play hard every game. It makes me want to rise to the challenge and make a name for myself, but, at the same time, we want to get a win." 


Thomas was named after the former Indiana University and NBA All-Star guard after his father lost a friendly wager on a 1989 playoff game between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers. 


Thomas'' mother was OK with the idea because she was looking to give her son a biblical name. 


Basketball has remained part of Thomas'' life as he progressed through prep school to the Huskies. 


Now that Thomas'' game has reached the NCAA tournament stage, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar doesn''t think the spotlight will knock him off his game. 


"For a guy like Isaiah that has such a passion for this game and is such a student of the game, he''s not going to waste this opportunity with distractions," Romar said. "Sometimes others can, but in his case, I don''t think that is going to happen." 


Thomas will be part of a starting lineup that has Justin Dentmon (15 ppg.) at the other guard, and Jon Brockman (14.9 ppg., 11.2 rpg.), Quincy Pondexter (11.5 ppg.) and Darrell Gant (3.1 ppg.) at the forwards. 


For No. 13 seed MSU, Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado (13.1 ppg., nine rpg.) patrols the middle, while Barry Stewart (12.3 ppg.), Ravern Johnson (12.2 ppg.) and Phil Turner (8.5 ppg.) joins Bost in the backcourt. 


While scouting Thomas in prep school, Romar also got a good look at Bost. 


"I thought he played really hard," Romar said. "He was a serious competitor. He took big shots and hit big shots. (He''s) just a fearless, fearless guard. That''s what I remember." 


Romar said it appears Bost has done a good job blending in with the Bulldogs and has done a decent job of distributing the basketball. 


MSU coach Rick Stansbury is a fan of prep school basketball and thinks every player should have a chance to experience it. 


Stansbury believes a freshman has an advantage if given the chance to get a year of prep school training. 


That''s why he didn''t hesitate to make Bost the point guard after Jamont Gordon left the program early. 


"(Prep school) has allowed him to step in from day one and we put the ball in his hands," Stansbury said. "It could have been a little harder to do with a true freshman coming out of high school. We just put the ball in his hands as a prep school guy and felt he had an opportunity to do it. He hasn''t disappointed us at all." 


Bost has not only used prep school to grow, but a grueling, rugged first year in the SEC with the Bulldogs also hasn''t hurt preparing him for postseason. 


Teammates have noticed Bost getting better throughout the season. 


"I''ve seen him mature a lot over the stretch we went through," MSU junior guard Barry Stewart said. "I think he has taken the defensive end of the court serious and it shows in his play. He''s taking control of the offense a little bit better and he''s improving every game." 


The Bulldogs (23-12) have won six straight games and beat Tennessee on Sunday to claim the SEC tournament championship. 


The quick turnaround with only one good practice at home before the cross-country flight to Oregon doesn''t bother Stansbury. 


"As far as preparation and travel, it''s not perfect, but when you have an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament as a basketball player, this is what you work all year for," Stansbury said. "If a coach has to coach effort at this point, you are probably not going to win the basketball game." 


The Bulldogs are 2-0 in previous matchups against Pac-10 teams in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They defeated Oregon 76-69 last season and Stanford 93-70 in 2005.