BRAD LOCKE: Varnado’s best choice will be to stick around

Let me tell you about Scotty Thurman, and please listen closely.
Scotty, as you SEC fans will remember, was a lanky, sweet-shooting guard for Arkansas in the mid-1990s. It was his cold-blooded 3-pointer that lifted the Razorbacks past Duke in the 1994 national championship game.
You might also remember, less vividly, that the two-time all-SEC first-teamer helped the Hogs reach the 1995 title game, where they lost to UCLA.
After that, you probably don’t remember anything about Scotty Thurman.
With a year of eligibility remaining, Scotty entered the NBA Draft along with teammate and best friend Corliss Williamson. Having been a classmate of Scotty’s at Ruston (La.) High School – for the record, I “played” on the freshman basketball team his junior year – I was pulling hard for him to get drafted high.
Scotty had received assurances he would be drafted, quite possibly in the first round. But Scotty didn’t get drafted at all.
He never made it to the NBA, bouncing around the minor leagues and Europe for 10 years.

Varnado’s choice
What’s this got to do with anything? It’s got to do with Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State’s fine junior center, who is pondering leaving a year early for the NBA. An announcement could come this week, but he has until April 26 to declare.
Far be it from me to tell someone to turn down a nice fat contract from an NBA team, but I hope Varnado can see the bigger picture here. Even if he’s assured of being a first-round pick, I think Varnado should return to Starkville for his senior year.
Here’s my honest, unbiased opinion on Varnado: I don’t foresee him having a prolonged professional career; not in the NBA, anyway. He possesses one extraordinary skill, blocking shots, but at 6-foot-9, that won’t translate well to the big leagues.
Scotty Thurman had one extraordinary skill – shooting the 3-pointer, which he made 43.2 percent of the time at Arkansas. At best, he would’ve been a taller Dana Barros, but at least he had a transferable skill, J.J. Redick notwithstanding.
Varnado’s developed other parts of his game, but he’s still a 210-pound center who I’m sure NBA scouts would consider a ’tweener. He’s not beefy enough to bang inside, not agile enough to play outside the paint.

An easy call?
Varnado’s father, Winston, said his son loves the college experience, and that should be enough to convince Varnado to return next season. No sense in not at least testing the waters – Varnado is awaiting feedback from the NBA on his draft status and a scouting report of his game – but this ultimately should be an easy call.
Stay in Starkville, be a big fish for one more year, and lead a team loaded with talent and experience to greater heights.
Develop your offensive game even more, put on some pounds, and maybe that NBA career will last longer than I think.
And learn from Scotty Thurman’s mistake. Don’t repeat it.

Brad Locke ( covers Mississippi State for the Journal and blogs daily at

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