LOOK FOR DONTAE TO DASH, DAMPIER UNCERTAIN

CATEGORY: Basketball

AUTHOR: PHELPS

LOOK FOR DONTAE TO DASH, DAMPIER UNCERTAIN

Notes and quotes from the day after…

NEW YORK — The burning question now that Mississippi State’s Cinderella run at the national championship is over is: Will Dontae’ Jones and Erick Dampier be back next season?

The answer is probably, “no” on Dontae’ and “maybe” on Erick.

Following Saturday’s NCAA Final Four semifinal 77-69 loss to Syracuse at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., I asked Dontae’ if he had played his last game in the maroon and white.

“I’m going to look at it and do what’s best for my family,” he said, his mouth breaking into that familiar Magic Johnson-like smile. Friends, Dontae’ Jones is heading for the NBA. That’s what’s best for him and his family back in Nashville.

Dick Weiss, a.k.a, “Mr. Hoops” of the New York Daily News said in his Sunday “College Insider” column that Dontae’ was ready for the quantum leap to the world of pro basketball, along with Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan, Georgetown’s Allen Iverson, UMass’ Marcus Camby, UConn’s Ray Allen and Georgia Tech’s freshman guard Stephon Marbury.

Weiss calls Jones the “best pure athlete in college basketball.”

Dampier was mum on the subject of his future. “As far as I know, we’ll (Dampier and Jones) be back at Mississippi State,” he said.

Weiss labeled Dampier, along with six other highly-touted college players, as “not ready” for the big leagues. The others were Kansas’ Jacque Vaughn, Tulane’s Gerald Honeycutt, Arkansas’ Darnell Robinson, Michigan’s Maurice Taylor, North Carolina’s Jeff McInnis and Utah’s Keith Van Horn.

“He (Dampier) lacks great hands and is not offensively productive enough yet to be a force on the next level,” Weiss wrote.

Nervous Dawgs: MSU coach Richard Williams said he could tell at Saturday’s pregame meal that his players were a little more nervous than usual.

“They were just so full of energy and just bouncing up and down and chattering,” he said. “They were so keyed up. But why not be nervous? This is the ultimate for college basketball.”

CBS commentator Pat O’Brien told TV columnist Nat Gottlieb of the New Jersey Star-Ledger that Mississippi State’s players “looked a little awestruck” at the Final Four.

“I make it a point every year of watching the players when they first walk into the arena at the Final Four,” O’Brien said to Gottlieb. “People forget the heavy experience this is. The Bulldogs acted like they were in the movie, `Hoosiers.”’

Well, I’m not buying that baloney from O’Brien.

This MSU team has played and won big games this season at the Superdome, the RCA Dome and Rupp Arena. They just had one of those “off” days like teams are prone to have. Twenty-one turnovers would have gotten Syracuse beaten, too.

Big Apple bites: MSU’s team was scheduled to take a tour of New York Sunday and then fly back home today. They had talked earlier about staying for tonight’s title game, but that plan was scratched. … TV star Bill Cosby played a tune during Saturday’s pregame with the MSU prep band. The “Cos” plays the trumpet. … MSU freshman point guard Bart Hyche on the season: “We had a great year doing something nobody thought we’d do. Everybody thought we were underachievers.” … Does that 77-69 score sound familiar to you Bulldog fans? Well, that’s the score South Carolina beat MSU by earlier this season. … Darryl Wilson’s feelings on playing his last game for MSU: “I’ll miss playing with all my teammates. I told them after the game that I loved them.” … Russell Walters on the same subject, his final game: “This season will go down in the books. It’s something that’s never happened at State. I was proud to be a part of it. We did something nobody gave us a chance to do. We’re one of the top four teams in the country. I’m proud of that.”

Gene Phelps is sports editor for the Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio