In his first week with Sioux Falls, the former Mississippi State forward averaged 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.7 blocks to earn NBA D-League Performer of the Week honors.
Skyforce head coach Joel Abelson has been working with Varnado for a short time but is impressed with what he’s seen thus far. “He’s an absolute pleasure to coach,” Abelson said. “When I was trying to get him to come here, he said ‘I don’t really care too much about touches and shots. I just want to be the best shot blocker, defender and rebounder in the league.’
“He just plays hard, doesn’t complain and affects the game every time he’s in the game.”
After earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors three times and going in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft to Miami, Varnado then played in Italy and Israel, He also spent training camp with the Heat before securing a spot in the D-League.
“Overseas was a learning experience. It was a good experience,” he said. “It grew me up and allowed me to work on my game because we usually had two practices a day. I used that time to really improve my game and offensive skills.”
Along with Renardo Sidney, who is with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Varnado is one of two MSU products in the D-League. Their ultimate goal is reaching the NBA, where fellow ex-Bulldog Arnett Moultrie is with Philadelphia.
“Renardo Sidney is a talented player ... he’s going to be in that NBA one day,” he said. “Moultrie is a great player – mobile and can shoot a little bit. I’m just happy to see a fellow Mississippi State player in the NBA. Hopefully we can get a few more guys in there, including myself.”
But until he gets that highly-coveted call-up, he’s going to keep his approach simple.
“That’s what guys (in this league) get caught up in, trying to do too much,” he said. “I know I’m a rebounder and a shot blocker. So I try to do that to the best of my ability as well as still trying to improve on my offensive game. I won’t go away from what got me drafted and what got me here.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.