May 7, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Signed, sealed, and delivered.
The much anticipated paperwork confirming the signing of 7-foot-2 center John Riek reached the Mississippi State men''s basketball office Wednesday afternoon.
Riek is almost one year removed (last July) from knee surgery. He has spent that year recovering from the injury at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., under the watchful eye of instructor Dan Barto.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury knows the program is taking a chance on a player who has had a severe knee injury, but he believes it is worth the risk.
"We know before the injury he was having an excellent career," Stansbury said Wednesday in a statement released by the school. "Now he''s in the process of getting back to where he was before the knee injury. It''s a slow process, but we''re willing to take a chance on him since he''s such a great kid."
Riek will be MSU''s first 7-footer since Wesley Morgan (2004-06). He will join Shaunessy Smith, of Noxubee County, Wendell Lewis, and Renardo Sidney as signees with the program.
After coming to the United States in January 2006 from Ethiopia, where he called home after his family fled from the war in Sudan, Riek attended prep school at Our Savior New American on Long Island and Winchendon (Mass.) School. He then went to IMG Academy.
"If he gets in with the proper strength and conditioning program, he''s going to have a chance to be one of the better shot blockers and really impact the game," Barto said.
Stansbury said he and his assistant coaches are ready to do what they have to do to help Riek reach that point.
"He is nowhere near where he once was as a player, but it''s our job to help him get back to that level that had him going straight to the NBA," Stansbury said. "That''s our goal."
College coaches and NBA scouts noticed Riek''s skills at the Nike Hoop Jamboree and the LeBron James Skill Academy in 2007. He had 18 points in a 24-minute game on the final day of the LeBron James Skill Academy.
After his time at Winchendon School, Riek considered entering the NBA draft, but pulled his name out.
Cincinnati and Providence also recruited Riek.
n In other MSU men''s basketball news, reserve forward Jacquiese Holcombe will transfer from MSU.
Holcombe, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward from College Park, Ga., played in seven games last season, and was hobbled by an ankle injury.
He averaged 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds.
His departure will open up a scholarship for the arrival of Sidney, one of the nation''s top big men, who signed last week.