Questions Surround MSU's Ervin

FAYETTEVILLE – During the Southeastern Conference's preseason gathering of basketball coaches, main players and reporters last year, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury spoke candidly about point guard Gary Ervin.

After a so-so season as senior Timmy Bowers' backup the campaign before, Stansbury talked of how critical Ervin's play would be for the Bulldogs.

And he was critical of several things about Ervin: He tended to pick hustling spots and to fly upcourt or into the lane without a backup plan. And he still had much to learn as far as the intricacies so necessary in SEC play.

It's not super surprising that Ervin probably will transfer, along with two of three freshman Bulldogs (the third, forward Walter Sharpe, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger he "more than likely" will leave, too) in the latest mass exodus from Starkville.

But it was a bit of a head-scratcher to learn that Arkansas coach Stan Heath is entertaining the junior-to-be from Brooklyn this weekend on the heels of Thursday's much-needed signing of 6-foot-6 juco shooting guard Ryan McBride.

"Right now, (the Razorbacks) are in real good shape with me, and that's why I have set up this visit," Ervin told our Dudley Dawson on Thursday. "I just think their style of play fits me really well. They at least look to break at every opportunity and push it, although they have the ability to slow it down when needed as well.

"They get out in the passing lanes really well on defense, and that's something I enjoyed watching them do when I wasn't playing against them."

Because senior-to-be forward Rashard Sullivan left the team on April 13 because, he said in an e-mail to reporters, he was unhappy with his progress and role, Arkansas has one last scholarship to dish out.

It's certainly no secret that Arkansas desperately needs someone to really get the point. Eric  Ferguson, Ronnie Brewer and Dontell Jefferson rotated at it last season. Ferguson is a natural shooting guard. Brewer needs to be more of a free-floating scorer. Jefferson has not played like an SEC-caliber starter.

Compounding the problem, incoming freshman Sean McCurdy (6-foot-2, 175 pounds), a combo guard at New Jersey's St. Anthony High but expected to focus on the point here, missed all of last season with a broken bone in his right foot.

Even if he says "yes" to a Heath offer (if it is forthcoming) this weekend, the cat-quick Ervin (5-11, 170) would not be a quick fix. Although MSU has granted him permission to speak to other schools (including SEC ones, squashing the two-seasons ban on moving from one conference team to another), he would have to sit out one season.

Plus Ervin's MSU numbers don't compute into a big-timer. At least not yet.

He started all but one game last season, averaging 29.2 minutes and 7.4 points while hitting just 38.3 percent from the floor (only 23.3 percent from behind the 3-point line). Largely because he had a mammoth, talented front line to lob to, Ervin was third in SEC assists (4.7), but he was seventh in SEC assist-to-turnover ratio (1.58 to 1).

Ervin has played four games against the Hogs, none eyebrow-raising:

1) 20 minutes, 2 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers (1-10-04 in Starkville)

2) 8 minutes, 0 points, 0 assists, 2 turnovers (2-14-04 here)

3) 32 minutes, 9 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers (1-15-05 in Starkville)

4) 27 minutes, 4 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers (3-1-05 here)

The biggest red flag this raises, though, concerns team chemistry, which already is quite fragile in these parts.

Ervin's playing time decreased along with MSU's schedule. He sat out the last 11 minutes of the Feb. 16 loss (leaving the locker room before his teammates got there) against LSU before missing his only game as a starter the next time out against Kentucky.

A couple of weeks back, Ervin told the Daily News of New York he would transfer.

That very same day, he told the Clarion-Ledger: "Don't believe everything you hear. Don't believe everything you read.

"I'm just having fun. I still haven't talked to coach Stansbury yet.

"I'm not saying I am (transferring). I'm not saying I'm not."

Ervin is worth a look and listen. After all, the guy was ESPN.com's third-rated point guard after playing a season at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., in 2003.

And he did help lead MSU to the second round of last season's NCAA Tournament, a setting Heath's three previous Arkansas teams have not been invited to.

Ervin can officially visit five schools, and he also likes UTEP, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Marquette and Wake Forest.

"Rutgers and Seton Hall are both schools back home, but I think Arkansas is the best situation for me," Ervin told Dawson.

The big question is this:

Would the addition of Ervin be the best situation for Arkansas?

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