By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – There’s been a lot of drama, on and off the court, for Mississippi State this season. And none of it has involved Kodi Augustus.
That in itself is notable. Earlier in his career, the senior forward was known more for spouting off and getting on the wrong side of Rick Stansbury. Last season, he was suspended two games for criticizing his coach after a loss; the year before that, he went from starter to not playing and seriously considered leaving the program.
Now, Augustus has become a steady presence in the post, averaging 12.1 points and 7.3 rebounds heading into today’s regular-season finale against South Carolina (14-14, 5-10 SEC). It’s Senior Day at MSU (16-13, 8-7), and Augustus has earned the recognition that will be bestowed today.
He’s learned how to keep his head down and just go to work.
“I’ve come a long way. Everybody tells me that,” he said. “I recognize and acknowledge it and keep moving forward and try to keep improving.”
Augustus was asked how it was out of the limelight, so to speak.
“You mean like all the drama and stuff? I had my experience and grew up, moved on, and I try not to let it happen again,” he said. “It’s a growing-up process for whoever goes through something.”
More than staying out of trouble, Augustus has become a big part of MSU keeping it together during this tumultuous season. The Bulldogs clinched second place in the Western Division – and a first-round bye in next week’s SEC Tournament – when they beat Arkansas on Wednesday, 88-78. Augustus scored 23 points, the most he’s scored in SEC play this season.
He’s become dependable. He’s naturally a power forward who can play on the wing, but he had to spend time at the pivot when Renardo Sidney was serving his NCAA suspension (and then two more team suspensions), and more was asked of him after Elgin Bailey left the team in January.
Augustus gets to the free-throw line more than any other Bulldog (134) and has made 82.8 percent of those shots, which ranks fifth in the SEC. He’s become a leader.
“Definitely, I try to be that, especially on a team like this with so many things that are going on,” he said. “I try to do whatever’s best for the team.”
Seniors seek strong finish
Two other seniors are being honored today: guards Riley Benock and Ravern Johnson.
Benock is a first-year starter who leads the team in 3-point shooting at 43.8 percent. He averages just 6.5 points per game but has a knack for hitting shots at the right time.
Johnson, like Augustus, has had to overcome himself, only more recently. He was suspended two games in February after sending out “inappropriate tweets” following a loss to Alabama. Over his last five games, Johnson is averaging 19.4 points and has made 19 of 30 from 3-point range (63.3 percent).
“Sitting on the bench I noticed a lot of things,” Johnson said. “I knew what I had to do and improve. First couple of days when coach and I had the meeting, I told him that whatever his decision was I accept it. I’m not going to change my attitude and still work hard.
“I know I’d made a bad decision, but I wanted to help the team any way I can.”
These three seniors want to lead MSU the NCAA tournament, and the only way that will happen is by winning the SEC Tournament. That’s what happened two years ago, and Augustus, Benock and Johnson all played roles on that team.
“Every year our chemistry is good at this point and we go to the tournament and do it,” Augustus said. “This is the team to do it because we have the pieces definitely, I think, to go do it and do it with ease.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571