Former Mississippi State basketball player Jarvis Varnado has heard all the detractors who've analyzed his game. Some say he's too skinny. Others believe his limited offensive skills will stunt his pro potential. Then there are skeptics who believe Varnado's transition to playing power forward and his lack of bulk will limit his shot-blocking ability in the NBA.
Tradition-rich high school baseball programs New Hope and Hamilton will be well represented Saturday in the D.M. Howie Mississippi High School All-Star Baseball Games. Both schools will have two players take the field at Trustmark Park in Pearl for the games sponsored by the Crossroads Diamond Club. New Hope will be represented on the North squad by Jake Smith and Philip Tice in the Class 4A-5A-6A game at 1 p.m., while Hamilton's Dylan Earnest and Kevin McCartney will play for the North in the Class A-2A-3A game at 6 p.m.
It was Karoline Holsonback's ambition to be the best player she could be to help the South Lamar High School softball team win games. Holsonback realized her goal. The freshman catcher was instrumental in helping the Lady Stallions make it to the Final Four of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament this season.
Chase Davidson has seen Brach White make a difference in two years as the Pickens Academy baseball coach. Pickens Academy is 40-10 in two years, including 17-6 and making it to the second round of the Alabama Independent School Association Class AA state playoffs this season. "We've won 40 games in two years compared to us winning nine games in three years before he came so he's definitely helped us out," Davidson said. "He's taught us a lot about the game. "He keeps us fired up. He doesn't let us quit."
Dante Oliver and Tavaris Tate have a relationship that's seen them take similar paths to prep athletic greatness. Though not related through blood, the pair consider each other family after Oliver's family met Tate's family close to nine years ago. The Olivers, an Air Force family of four with no immediate family in Mississippi, had most of their relatives based in the Grand Strand of South Carolina.
STARKVILLE -- For one of Mississippi State's most decorated student-athletes, winding down is a delicate process. A three-time first-team All-American who is sure to earn her fourth selection this week, Chelsea Bramlett has used the last three weeks to decelerate her mind and body after completing her senior season. Her performance this season was typical Bramlett; who led the Southeastern Conference in steals and batting average en route to another hoard of awards and honors.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State's men's basketball team hopes to be at full strength when it makes its first trip outside of the United States for a game. With contracts close to being finalized for MSU's game in the Bahamas against fellow 2010 NCAA tournament snub Virginia Tech, the idea is to have sophomore forward Renardo Sidney, who must sit out an NCAA-mandated nine games to start the 2010-11 schedule, available to play. Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said the game should be official soon and it's "just a matter of getting everything signed" for the tentatively scheduled Dec. 18 game in Nassau.
Athletes from West Point and Aberdeen Friday were recognized as players of the year, during a Dispatch party to celebrate the launch of a new sports magazine, Sports Review.
STARKVILLE -- Change is something Starkville Academy athletics became used to in 2009-10. Win-loss records, experience, head coaches, confidence, spirit -- all were affected greatly by a down year in boys athletics. The football and basketball programs managed one win between both seasons.
PEARL -- The approach is the same regardless of how many are out. It just so happens that two was the magic number Wednesday for the Richton High School baseball team. As a result, the Rebels will have to clear another space in their trophy case.
PEARL -- Pitchers don't always take the adage "you can't break a plane of glass" as a source of pride. Kameron Mills didn't mind Wednesday that the radar gun at Trustmark Park might have had difficulty measuring the speed of some of pitches.
HAMILTON -- Dylan Earnest and Chase Reeves want to write a different ending. For the past three seasons, Earnest and Reeves have seen their Hamilton High School baseball seasons end on the wrong note. In 2007, Hamilton lost to Gulfport St. John in two games in the Class 1A State title series. In 2008, Richton defeated Hamilton 6-5 in game three to take the Class 2A crown.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen resembled a relaxed man Tuesday, displaying a relieved yet jovial demeanor that's usually noticeable when the Bulldogs are winning games. Cohen is officially working toward next season and hopes trainers can heal the injured players he bewailed not having at his disposal while in the midst of his second-straight losing season since taking over as head coach.
STARKVILLE -- Sitting on the fence can sometimes be a lonely place, but Louis Cant has company. The Mississippi State singles tennis player is one of eight alternates hoping to make it into the 64-player NCAA tournament field for today's NCAA Singles Championships at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. Cant, the third alternate, is hopeful for a replay of 2008 when seven alternates made the field instead of last season when two made the field.
PEARL -- For three and a half innings Tuesday, the Hamilton High School baseball team looked like a squad that was going to defy the odds. Not only did the Lions put the controversy with Bruce High School behind them, but they also used a strong start by Dylan Earnest to quiet the Richton High School bats and take an early two-run lead. But one of the most unusual sequences in recent state title series history helped the Rebels tie the game and changed the momentum to put the Lions' season in jeopardy.
After playing for Curt Fowler last summer, Brent Hallmark wanted to play for him again this summer. Hallmark will get his wish as he will play for the Tippah County Tribe in the Cotton States Baseball League. The only difference is Hallmark won't play for the same team he played for last summer in the wood bat league for college players.
STARKVILLE -- With track and field season completed, Shay Bonner can look back on a prep career filled with multiple state meet memories. The Starkville High senior earned second- and third place laurels a year ago in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, respectively, and followed that with duplicate results in both events this year. Bonner felt her chances to win the 100 would be greater this year because she'd significantly improved her speed. She also ran a leg on the Lady Jackets' 4x400 and 4x200 relay teams.
You have to admire the tenacity of the fans, parents and supporters of the Bruce High School baseball team. If the coaching staff or athletic administrators had exhibited similar diligence in pursuing a clarification of a rule neither the Bruce nor the Hamilton High School baseball teams would be in this quagmire. The situation involving the Mississippi High School Activities Association's ruling to withdraw Bruce from the Class 2A state championship series due to a violation of a pitching restriction took another turn Friday when a motion was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court to get the team reinstated.
STARKVILLE -- Scott Stricklin hasn't had time to catch his breath since becoming Mississippi State's athletic director and the whirlwind figures to keep him busy with football season roughly three months away. Since taking over the department two weeks ago, Stricklin's days have consisted of meetings with coaches and key members of the university's hierarchy along with day-to-day responsibilities. His predecessor and close friend, Greg Byrne, left him with tremendous growth to continue. Part of that includes a solid staff Stricklin says he's "fortunate" to have in place.
1. Pickle takes over as New Hope football coach HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. MSU men hit unlucky 13 for second year in a row COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Close games have helped New Hope girls find focus HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Shaw has too much for West Lowndes HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS