PORTLAND, Ore. – To friends and family of Dee Bost: Please forgive him if he doesn’t return your texts or voice mails today. Even his mother might have trouble getting up with him.
Bost will be in what he calls “my zone” prior to No. 13 seed Mississippi State’s matchup with fourth-seeded Washington today in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Rose Garden. It’s not that he’ll be nervous – he just needs to find that place inside his head that has served him so well this season.
“A lot of people ask me why I don’t call them back, if they call and text message me,” Bost said. “I tell them, I’ll talk to you later.’”
That’s just one sign that Bost (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) is not your typical freshman. He is not easily distracted.
It wasn’t always that way earlier in the season. Though he wears a poker face that would serve him well in Vegas, Bost too often let the ebb and flow of a game take him along for the ride and was too easily beaten by opposing point guards.
His improvement in both regards was most apparent during the Bulldogs’ run to the SEC Tournament title last weekend. His consistent play steadied the Bulldogs during some tumultuous moments, like in the championship game against Tennessee.
His 3-pointer gave State a 55-52 lead, and he came up with a key steal off a Phil Turner deflection in the waning seconds.
“Here of late, for Dee, I’ve seen him mature a lot over the stretch we went through,” junior shooting guard Barry Stewart said. “I think he’s taken the defensive end of the court seriously now.”
Taken as a whole, Bost’s freshman year has been a remarkable one. He made the SEC All-Freshman team, is fourth in the league in assists (4.3 per game) and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.52.
“I thought he was going to have a little freshman phase coming in, but he’s really played up to par,” MSU junior center Jarvis Varnado said.
Credit Bost’s schooling for the almost seamless transition. Getting up at 6 a.m. every day to march the grounds of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., enduring grueling individual basketball drills, playing against the nation’s best -it all forced Bost to grow up fast.
He was a shooting guard in high school and at Hargrave and knew how to score, averaging 18.5 points last season. MSU coach Rick Stansbury recruited him as a point guard, though, and Bost has learned how to control the scorer within, subduing it or releasing it depending on the situation.
“I think he’s a guy who picks his spots now and can be aggressive offensively and can score points when needed,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who saw Bost play in high school, “but he does a really good job in the open floor of finding his teammates and getting them the basketball.”
Romar has a pretty good freshman point guard, too, in Isaiah Thomas. Like Bost, Thomas (5-8, 170) spent a year in prep school, at South Kent (Conn.) School.
Thomas leads the team with 15.4 points per game and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
Bost and Thomas have played each other before. They met last season at a tournament in Springfield, Mass., with Hargrave winning 90-68 and Bost out-scoring Thomas 21-18.
This meeting obviously has a little more riding on it. Neither player wants to get caught up in the point guard matchup, but the one who better handles being on the “big stage,” as Thomas calls it, will probably be on the winning side.
If it’s Bost, feel free to call and text him all night.
Brad Locke/Daily Journal