Jarvis Varnado Shines at AAU Nationals

Mississippi State commitment Jarvis Varnado, a skinny 6-9, 186-pound shot-blocking machine from Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tennessee, has caught the eye of recruiting gurus the past couple of weeks due to his outstanding play at the Super Showcase and the AAU Nationals.

Jarvis Varnado Profile Page

I remember when I broke the story that Jarvis Varnado had committed to Mississippi State. Most MSU fans asked - who is Jarvis Varnado? And, to be completely truthful, I didn't know much about him either.

Oh, he had done a few nice things at a couple of tournaments that was starting to get his name out. The first tournament that caught the attention of Scout.com's National Recruiting Director, Dave Telep, was the adidas All-American Camp.

"He had a terrific adidas camp that gave him some momentum and confidence," said Telep.

His AAU coach, Jeremy Shulman, the head coach of the Midstate Ballerz, couldn't agree more.

"He made the All-Tournament team at the Tournament of Champions in North Carolina, but he really blew up at the adidas All-American Camp in July," said Shulman. "During that camp, he had a 23-point, 8-rebound, 8-block shot game against Stanley Robinson, a national top 20 player (26th player overall on Scout.com's list)."

But Shulman saw this coming in April at the Kingwood Classic in Houston, Texas.

"He really blew up on the national scene with 9 block shots against the Michigan Hurricane at the Houston-Kingwood in early April," he said. "He had 9 block shots against Tom Herzog, a 7-footer who is either going to Michigan State or Michigan. Herzog (Scout.com's 7th rated center and 39th rated player overall) couldn't get a shot off the entire game. We ended up upsetting them. That started it all for him."

And it's continued on into the AAU Nationals at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. A tournament that concludes today.

"Here, at the AAU Nationals, he took his team all the way to the final four," said Telep. "For a guy to do that at his current size and playing weight, it speaks a lot about his ability. He is much better than I thought he was before July. When I saw him in the spring, he wasn't as active, wasn't finishing plays. It's like a complete overhaul. He's active, he's running. His confidence is probably the biggest thing with him. He's just a different guy than when we last saw him.

"Few guys in the class of 2006 - and maybe no one - have made the strides he's made with his game since the spring. He will be in our top 100. He's a high-major guy. There is no doubt about that. We have to make some room for him."

What did Telep see during the AAU Nationals that justifies such lofty praise? I'll let Coach Shulman tell you.

"In (Sunday's semi-final) loss, he had 26 points and 11 rebounds," said Shulman, whose team will play for third place Monday. "He had 18 points in the second half, alone. He also had 9 block shots. He's already had two triple-doubles just in the Nationals. Against Nike Team-Florida, he had 22 points, 19 rebounds and 11 block shots. For the tournament, he was right around 19 points per game, 11 rebounds per game and 8 block shots."

While Telep will add Varnado to his top 100, Coach Shulman thinks he's good enough to go much higher than that.

"There is no doubt in my mind that he is a top 50 type player," he said. "He's outplayed some top 50 players and he has so much more upside than a lot of those guys. And when he puts on some strength and weight, he's going to be absolutely unbelievable - he'll be better than a top 50 player.

"And he's such a good kid. He's a joy to coach. He's so coachable. He'll look you directly in the eye when you tell him what he needs to do to improve. Then, the next time down the court, he'll do it."

With all this talk about his coming-out-party, where has Varnado been the past couple of years?

"He played with our 16-year old team last year, but we didn't travel much with them," said Shulman. "You could tell then that he was going to be a special player. He was about 6-7 last year and even skinnier than he is now, but he had that natural ability. You could tell that he would be good in the future, but I didn't know he would be this good, this quick.

"He's a national unknown, a late-bloomer who will continue to get better and better. He has everything right now but age and strength. He has incredibly long arms and great timing. He's never lifted weights and he's a young senior (just turned 17). He's still growing and he's got the biggest hands and feet that I have ever seen. He might end up being 6-10 to 6-11."

Should the MSU coaches worry now that all the other coaches know what they already knew, that Jarvis Varnado is a special player? Not so says Shulman.

"I know schools still call him and they are still calling me," said Shulman, who also coached MSU freshmen Richard and Reginald Delk on his AAU team. "They tell me he should do this or do that. I tell them that he is firm with Mississippi State. It's the right place for him."

And the MSU coaching staff will continue doing their part to let Varnado know that MSU is the right place for him.

"(MSU assistant) Coach (Phil) Cunningham was at every game, all 11 (tournament) games," said Shulman.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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