STARKVILLE – Jarvis Varnado said he hasn’t considered the worst-case scenario.
For Mississippi State’s basketball team, that scenario would involve signees Renardo Sidney and John Riek not being cleared by the NCAA for competition in 2009-10. Sidney, the 6-foot-10 McDonald’s All-American from Los Angeles, is the subject of an amateurism evaluation; the 7-1 Riek has to pay back money he received for NBA tryouts last year.
With that pair – Sidney likely starting, Riek off the bench – MSU would boast the most formidable frontcourt in the SEC, maybe in the country.
Without them – well, it could mean going back to a four-guard lineup.
“I’m just glad to have them here, be on campus, just going against some good competition every day in pickup games,” Varnado, a senior center, said Monday as he met with reporters. “I just haven’t really thought about them not being cleared.”
Not that State can’t do well without them. It returns all five starters from the defending SEC Tournament champion team, plus it might have a rising star in junior forward Kodi Augustus, who came on strong late in the season.
Varnado, who’s on the Wooden Award watch list, isn’t too worried about playing without Sidney and/or Riek.
“We won’t be as big as with those two guys,” Varnado said, “but I think our heart and our desire to win, it will still be there.”
Monday was Varnado’s first talk with the media since returning from Serbia, where he helped Team USA win bronze at the World University Games.
Varnado didn’t play a lot of minutes in Serbia, but he learned some valuable lessons in his first international experience.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are on paper, you’ve got to work hard,” he said. “We’ve got a good team on paper, but that doesn’t mean nothing, because the ball is not thrown up in the air yet, and you’ve just got to have will – will to win.”
QB joins Bulldogs
– Quarterback Daniel Stegall, who signed with the Miami Hurricanes in 2006, has walked on to the MSU football team.
Stegall never played for Miami, instead joining the New York Mets’ minor league system as an outfielder after they drafted him in the seventh round; the Mets released him earlier this summer.
The 21-year-old Stegall (6-3, 185) is enrolled in classes and is a true freshman, and he should join the Bulldogs when they return to the practice field today. He’s a native of Flowood and graduated from Greenwood (Ark.) High School.
Also, an MSU spokesman confirmed Monday that walk-on defensive back Robert Gurley left the team late last week.
Students gobble up tickets
– Football season tickets went on sale to students Monday, and they bought more than 7,000, a single-day record for MSU.
“The kids were fired up. They’re anxious for the season,” Athletics Director Greg Byrne said.
Byrne added that student tickets will be capped at 11,000. Assuming that total is reached, State will have sold more than 40,000 season tickets this year.
MSU has already eclipsed the previous record for season ticket sales, 38,440, set in 2001.
Contact Brad Locke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-1571
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal