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Stansbury, Bulldogs set to open season

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Healthy and drama-free, the Mississippi State men''s basketball will hold its first team practice Friday. 

 

From two NCAA eligibility appeals to three injury rehabilitations to two transfers, MSU is intact -- at least after Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost return from nine-game suspensions.  

 

"Nothing surprises you about what goes on in my career," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "There''s no quiet offseasons." 

 

The Bulldogs, who finished 24-12 an earned a NIT bid last season, cleared their last offseason hurdle two weeks ago when the NCAA reinstated Bost, a junior point guard, after he failed to meet the NBA draft withdrawal deadline.  

 

Bost, who is academically ineligible, will miss all of the team''s games in the fall semester. He must serve his nine-game suspension once he''s cleared Dec. 11. 

 

Backup point guard Twany Beckham''s return from hip surgery would have been critical if Bost wouldn''t have been reinstated, but his availability is just as vital while Bost sits the first half of the season. 

 

After losing heralded defender Barry Stewart, who also was MSU''s all-time leader in 3-pointers, to graduation, the Bulldogs will look to junior college transfer Brian Bryant to provide depth in the backcourt. 

 

"It''s a more confident feeling, even though we''ve got some guys who have to sit out some games," Beckham said. "I''m back to 100 percent and doing everything the team is doing. I feel like everybody else knows their situations and has to step up. Early, coach is going to do a lot of teaching. I think it''s going to take some time (for roles to be defined), but I think we''ll get it together." 

 

Two uncertainties remain for the Bulldogs, although both are of minor importance.  

 

First, MSU is waiting on a contract with St. Mary''s so it can finalize its schedule. 

 

Second, center Elgin Bailey''s recovery from anterior cruciate ligament surgery has lingered into the fall.  

 

Three weeks ago, Bailey estimated his knee was "65 to 75 percent" healed, but said he his rehabilitation was ahead schedule.  

 

"Where will he be Nov. 12?" Stansbury said last week. "I think it''s very obvious, without Sid he becomes even more important. And we anticipate having Elgin. If he''s not, we gotta pull from John Riek and Wendell Lewis. Those guys gotta step up and play for us." 

 

Lewis and Riek, both sophomores, averaged a combined nine minutes per game last season. Riek played in 11 games.  

 

MSU''s frontcourt is thin, even if Bailey is healthy enough to play. Senior Kodi Augustus is the only player with significant experience at power forward.  

 

Defensively, Stansbury will be satisfied if Sidney and Bailey can do half of what Jarvis Varnado did in his four years in Starkville. Varnado became the NCAA''s all-time leader in blocked shots last season and averaged 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. 

 

"(Varnado) used to block my shots every day," Sidney said. "I''d never had that in high school, so playing against him every day got me better and got him better also. He taught me the meaning of blocking shots. That wasn''t a part of my game, but that''s what I''m trying to add." 

 

Much is expected of Sidney on offense, too, as teammates have lauded his natural ability and fluidity. 

 

"He do stuff that most big men can''t do," Bost said. "Where he''s most dominant is on the block. I don''t think anybody in the country can play him one on one. How they had to double Jarvis is probably how they must double him because if they don''t he can score anytime." 

 

But Sidney sat out all of last season while he awaited the result of his NCAA appeal. He weighed 310 pounds last season when he arrived on campus and checked in last week at 280. He hopes to drop 15 more pounds to reach his ideal playing weight.  

 

Stansbury admits Sidney will go through freshman-like growing pains but should be fine once the team reaches conference play.  

 

"Because of where he''s at and how he plays, it''s not like he has to come down with that ball in his hand and make all the decisions," Stansbury said. "It''s easier for a big guy to adjust to what you''re doing. The things he can do will be a pretty easy adjustment."

 

 

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