"As far as sitting down and asking him the personal part of what happened (at Baylor), all the little details, that was one thing that was so positive about our (school). We were able to keep him away from all the national attention that was going on with that thing. That was his mother's decision and his decision, too. They didn't want him talking to the media. Besides, his situation is different. It is not just about Baylor. There are some legal issues going on down there. The last thing he wants is to say something that (winds up) on paper that is a legal issue that could be brought up in a court of law. There is a trial about to start (in Texas). So, it is different, totally different. I know some people didn't like to hear that because a lot of you guys wanted to talk to him and wanted to talk to him about Baylor and not about Mississippi State because he hadn't been there but two days. But it has turned out good for him. I think he has made the adjustment well. I think he is able to put most of that behind him the best he can right now."
How long will the ban on talking to him be on?
"It's off now. We had (our local) media day Monday and he talked then. But I wasn't going to bring him to (SEC Media Day) because I have two seniors, my two captains. You guys can (talk to) him at the games."
How long will the ban on him talking about Baylor be on?
"He will not talk about Baylor to anybody all year long. He has been instructed that if anybody asks a personal question about Baylor to not comment on it. He will only comment about Mississippi State and any transition from the Big 12 to the SEC."
Whose decision was that?
"Myself, his mother and him."
Do you think he is scarred at all from the Baylor situation?
"No, I think he is fine with everything. I think he has handled it well. He has a good family, a good, solid family back home to help him. Plus, he is a good kid, a good solid person. We just have to protect him from the legal issues that are going on. People don't understand those kind of things that are taking places is a different interview. You aren't interviewing him about NCAA things, but about a murder that took place. That is why he isn't going to comment on anything that happened at Baylor. He has representation that has told him how to handle that."
How good of a basketball player is he?
"I am finding out things (about him) everyday. Even after watching him on tape, there were things that I didn't know. I see him do things differently in practice everyday that I didn't know he could do it or how well he could do it. He is a better passer than I anticipated. He is showing me a different skill level. There is no question about his athleticism. He can go over the top of you and get a basket. He has shown more of an effort than we were looking for from a rebounding standpoint. As I told him, he averaged 11 (rebounds per game) and I just thought he got those that came to him. I told him good rebounders do that, get those that come to you. He can jump up in a crowd without blocking out and get a rebound. But I told him that great rebounders can go out of their area and get rebounds. That's where he has to continue improving.
"I have been very, very pleased. There is no question that he will be an impact (player) for us. You can't have him come in and be your leader immediately, but he has to continue to become a leader and be a more vocal person for us, because I always want my best players to be my hardest workers and my most vocal people out there."
Where do you envision playing him, power forward or center?
"I envision him playing both. He may be our best power forward and center. There is no question that he can be a load in that post."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org