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Varnado, Williams selected in NBA draft

 

David Miller

 

Four years of patrolling the paint for Mississippi State culminated in a dream come true for Jarvis Varnado on Thursday. 

 

The 6-foot-9 shot-blocking specialist realized a dream by being selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Miami Heat. 

 

The Heat, a playoff team a year ago, took Varnado with the 41st overall pick. The team didn''t have a first-round selection.  

 

Also drafted in the second round were former Starkville High School forward Latavious Williams by the Heat and Ole Miss guard Terrico White by the Detroit Pistons. Williams was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

 

Varnado was the first Mississippi State player selected since Lawrence Roberts went in the second round in 2005. He''s the fifth player taken during Rick Stansbury''s coaching tenure at MSU. 

 

Varnado joins a Miami team that went 47-35 last season and is poised to bolster its roster through free agency. The team is hopeful of luring at least two members of the coveted upper crust of the free agent group. Michael Beasley is the team''s only signed power forward as Udonis Haslem and centers Jermaine O''Neal and Jamaal Magloire are free agents.  

 

Varnado, who set the NCAA career record for blocked shots with 564, was the Southeastern Conference''s Defensive MVP for three straight seasons. 

 

He became the first player in the history of college basketball to score 1,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and block 500 shots. 

 

"That''s all I''ve wanted since I was young and got introduced to the game," Varnado said of being drafted. "I wanted to be in the NBA. They liked my shot-blocking ability, obviously, and my rebounding." 

 

The Heat, along with Washington, Detroit, Milwaukee and New York had Varnado in for a workout prior to the draft. 

 

Thursday night, he was relieved to have the draft completed. 

 

"Obviously, we''re very proud of Jarvis," Stansbury said. "He''s worked hard to get to this point. Not only is Miami getting a great player, they''re getting a great person, too. He''ll fit in well down there and he''ll be a great asset in the community." 

 

Despite the number of Heat forwards who are currently free agents and the improved odds of making the team, Varnado isn''t looking ahead until he gets to Miami. Thursday, he just wanted to enjoy the moment. 

 

"I was sitting here for a long time waiting to hear my name called," Varnado said. "Right now, I''m just happy and thank God for this moment and opportunity." 

 

Williams, who was the 48th player drafted, spent a year as a postgraduate player at Christian Life Center (Humble, Texas) after leading Starkville to the Class 5A state final in 2008. 

 

Williams made history by being the first player to go straight from high school to the National Basketball Developmental League and made history once more when the Heat selected him with one of four second round picks.  

 

Williams played for the NBDL''s Tulsa 66ers, a team owned by the NBA''s Oklahoma City Thunder.  He averaged 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season, but he made an impact in the postseason with 11.3 points and eight rebounds.  

 

The 6-foot-9 slasher is the second Starkville High player taken in the NBA Draft, joining Los Angeles Clippers forward Travis Outlaw, who was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft.  

 

"He''s an excellent rebounder, runs the floor, cuts hard," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said of Williams. "He''s just a very limited offensive player." 

 

White was selected 36th overall after Detroit took Georgetown power forward Greg Monroe at No. 7. 

 

The 6-foot-5 White averaged 15.1 points and 4.6 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore. He helped the Rebels share the Southeastern Conference Western Division title and reach the NIT semifinals. 

 

White, who is from Memphis, Tenn., was a member of the U.S. Under-19 World Championship team last summer. 

 

The Pistons finished last season 27-55 -- their worst record since 1994 -- and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001. 

 

 

 

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

 

 

 

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