November 13, 2009 9:12:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury hopes junior forward Kodi Augustus stays hungry.
Augustus started the first nine games last season before hitting a stretch where he didn''t play in 11 games due to a coaching decision.
During that time, Stansbury was trying to get Augustus to understand the importance of defense.
Augustus started to grasp what Stansbury wanted and his playing time increased late in the season. He averaged 9.8 points and three rebounds per game and hit 6 of 12 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs win the Southeastern Conference tournament. He then had nine points and eight rebounds in a loss to the University of Washington in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Augustus will look to take that momentum into this season. He''s expected to be back in a starting role at 8 tonight when MSU plays host to Rider.
Augustus knows his performance on defense will make a difference as he moves forward.
"You''ve always got to have it in the back of your head that defense wins games and (I am) believing that," Augustus said. "I was always a scorer in high school. Sitting on that bench will make you want to play and defense is the key. That''s what we need to win championships."
Augustus said experience has improved his knowledge of the game and decision-making. He believes he can get off to a good start this season.
Stansbury has noticed a change in Augustus.
"Kodi has come a long way," Stansbury said. "He''s made progress in every area. It''s very obvious when you watch him play.
"Is he perfect yet? He''s not, but I''ve never asked anyone to be perfect. I''m just asking for a good honest effort. I can live with mistakes as long as we think you are trying. Mistakes are a part of the game, and we do think Kodi is trying now to do what we want him to do, and his game is showing it, too."
Augustus started both of MSU''s exhibition victories and averaged 16 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes a game. He was 12 of 20 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.
"I''ve always been able to shoot," Augustus said. "Since we''ve been running this new offense, I''ve been playing outside. There are plays where I still cut and post up. I just try to take open shots and not try to force anything."
Augustus'' presence on the perimeter will be even more important for the Bulldogs, who will be without guards Twany Beckham and Shaun Smith (hip problems) and guard Riley Benock (foot surgery).
Those factors have Stansbury searching for an identity for his team heading into the opener.
"There''s a lot of things we don''t have figured out yet," Stansbury said. "Everything changes when you take Twany off the floor and Elgin (Bailey) off the floor. Everyone knows the starters, but those next guys off the bench are who you need to win championships. We''re taking a piece out of that a little bit. The whole substitution pattern has changed. It''s changed already in starting Kodi in the place of Phil (Turner)."
What about Sidney?
It appears MSU will be without freshman forward Renardo Sidney tonight.
The NCAA has been investigating Sidney''s status as an amateur athlete since he signed with the Bulldogs in April.
Sidney is practicing with the team, but he didn''t play in either exhibition game. Unless he''s cleared today, he won''t be able to play tonight.
Stansbury doesn''t know when the Sidney case will be resolved, and said it doesn''t matter what he thinks about the situation. He''s preparing for not having the McDonald''s High School All-American for a while.