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Varnado will return to MSU for senior season


Danny P Smith



STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s men''s basketball program received good news Monday about a big man for the third week in a row. 


After the signing of Renardo Sidney and the addition of John Riek, the Bulldogs learned Monday that center Jarvis Varnado plans to return for his senior season. 


MSU coach Rick Stansbury now has an opportunity to put together one of the nation''s most talented frontcourts. 


"We''re very excited Jarvis is coming back," Stansbury said in a statement released by the school. "I know this was a tough decision for him and his family, but, at the same time, it is a well-informed decision and one we all felt was best for Jarvis. This was a process he needed to go through, and I think it will make him a better player." 


Varnado spent about two weeks gathering information about his potential draft status after he announced April 27 he was going to "test the NBA water", but he never hired an agent so he could retain his college eligibility. 


Varnado learned in that time was he wasn''t ready for the NBA. 


"Another year in college can only help my game," Varnado said in the release. "This was a decision I prayed a lot about, and I feel this is what God wants me to do." 


Winston Varnado, Jarvis'' father, couldn''t be reached on his cell phone Monday night, but has been behind his son throughout the process and was going to support either decision. 


The idea of playing along side signees Sidney, Riek, Wendell Lewis and former Noxubee County High School standout Shaunessy Smith and the other returning Bulldogs was a factor in Varnado''s decision to return to school. 


Varnado, a 6-foot-9 shot blocker, averaged 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds this season. He was a part of back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division championships (2007 and 2008) and last year''s SEC Tournament title. He was the Most Valuable Player of the SEC Tourney. 


Now that Varnado has announced his return, the two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year can resume pursuit of the SEC and national career record for blocked shots. 


With 394 career blocked shots, he is 18 away from Shaquille O''Neal''s league-leading total of 412. He needs only 141 more to tie the NCAA mark of 535 set by Louisiana-Monroe''s Wojciech Mydra. 


After swatting 170 shots last season, those marks are expected to fall.  


"He has a chance to do something that''s really special," Stansbury said. 


Sidney, a 6-10 forward, is from Mississippi but attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles this season, announced April 30 that he planned to attend MSU. 


Riek, a 7-2 center from the Sudan, announced last week that he planned to play for the Bulldogs.



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