[Premium article] Football, basketball, baseball and football recruiting. A Gene's Page Calendar update and technical help also included."> [Premium article] Football, basketball, baseball and football recruiting. A Gene's Page Calendar update and technical help also included.">

Monday Morning Coffee Break

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01columnists/gswindoll.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="161"> [Premium article] Football, basketball, baseball and football recruiting. A Gene's Page Calendar update and technical help also included.


[Premium article] Football, basketball, baseball and football recruiting. A Gene's Page Calendar update and technical help also included.


Football spring practice ended this past Saturday in front of approximately 7,500 at the annual Super Bulldog Weekend scrimmage.

Coach Sherrill felt like it was a great spring session and that a lot of things were accomplished.

Coach Sherrill felt like he found some players on the offensive line, receiving corps, linebacking and secondary positions. He felt that Fant had a good spring, as did tight end Donald Lee, Dontae Walker (until he got injured), Ray Ray Bivines, and Fred Reid. He did express some concern about the defensive line. None of the defensive linemen stepped forward and showed consistency during the spring. There are several with a great deal of talent, Tommy Kelly, Ronald Fields and Kahlil Nash, but they haven't shown consistency.

As far as my opinion, after attending all but one of this spring's practices, I felt the biggest improvement of any player was seen from offensive lineman Michael Allen. Michael has lost about 35 pounds, with 25 more to go, and it showed in his quickness and stamina. He has a chance to be a very, very good offensive lineman as he continues to lose weight.

I was also very impressed with running back Fred Reid, Although he is small in stature, he is very, very quick and will find a hole and get through it quicker than any running back that we have. Plus, something that I haven't mentioned previously is his durability. While the other MSU running backs (Walker, Griffith, Jones) have missed practices throughout the spring, Fred was like the Eveready Bunny who keeps going on and on.

There were many other players who had good springs. I will be interviewing all of the assistant coaches to get their opinions as to how their various players performed and if they accomplished their spring goals.


The talk this past week has been MSU center Mario Austin. As all of you know by now, Mario has decided to declare for the NBA draft. After interviewing him in the locker room after the Texas loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, I had no doubt in my mind that he would be coming back for his junior year. To my surprise, he decided this past weekend, after going home and talking to his family, to reverse his earlier stance by deciding he would test the NBA waters.

I'm not going to argue about whether he made his decision because he talked to an agent as some have speculation. I have no information to say that is true and false. Mario said he has decided to do this because he wants to help his family, financially. This very well could be true since his mother has a heart condition, a condition that she also has when he was in high school. Who knows, she may have gotten worse and he may feel by going to the NBA he can help her. All this is speculating of course, but it could be true.

With the above said, there is no doubt in my mind that, with a little more experience, Mario will be ready to play in the NBA. But, as we learned from the Jonathan Bender episode of a few years ago, being ready to play in the NBA is not always a huge factor as to whether a player will be drafted. Bender was a high school player from Picayune, Mississippi who signed with MSU but decided to declare for the NBA after his senior season in high school. He was ultimately drafted by an NBA team in the first round, then sat on the bench learning the NBA style and working to improve his strength. The NBA team that drafted him did so based on potential, not because he was ready to play in the NBA. He is now playing significant minutes in the NBA.

While Mario doesn't have the ability or skill level of Bender, he does have talent, even NBA talent. The problem that Mario could run into, despite his talent, is he is projected as a mid- to late-first round draft pick, not a lottery pick as Bender was. And this is before a lot of the top players, high school and college, have decided whether they will declare for the draft. Based upon that and also how he performs in the tryouts for the various NBA teams, his draft status could go up or go down. It is a much bigger gamble on his part than it was on Bender's.

The next thing you have to question is whether Mario has his bases covered as far as being able to come back to school if he winds up being projected as a second round draft pick. According to what I have been told by what I feel are reliable sources, he may have. Mario, who is a solid although not great, student, may have done the necessary work in the classroom and could come back to school in the summer, first and second teams, and and be eligible to play for MSU next fall. The key for Mario is he has to withdraw from school prior to the deadline to withdraw. If he doesn't, then he would receive all F's and not be eligible even if he does come back and attend school during the summer sessions. Of course the truly best thing Mario could do is come back to school right now, continue with school and also test the NBA waters.

So basically, what it comes down to is Mario can test the NBA waters and if he is good enough to be drafted in the first round - the last first round pick receives a no-cut, three-year, $690,000 per year average contract (This contract amount is fixed based on order selected, the teams have the right to negiotate this amount plus or minus 20% of the number listed below.) - the NBA folks will tell him so after his tryouts. If he is not good enough to be drafted in the first round, then they will tell him that as well. He can then withdraw from the draft, come back to State and attend summer school.

Now, like Mario and the MSU coaching staff, we will all have to wait and see what happens the next two months.

More basketball information....

Not sure how it went, but Bay Springs (MS) High School guard Jason Forte officially visited Mississippi State a couple of weekends ago. The spring signing period begins this Wednesday (April 10th) and ends May 15th.


The Diamond Dogs, in front of 22,269 fans (11,860 on Saturday) during this weekend's Super Bulldog Weekend, defeated the Georgia Bulldogs two of three games to make their record 17-11 overall and 6-5 in the SEC.

For the fourth straight Friday night SEC game, sophomore left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm won. However, unlike his earlier three, he failed to complete the game against Georgia.

Although Mississippi State didn't hit the ball particularly well for the three-game series, there were a couple of hitting stars, redshirt freshman Jon Mungle (.417, 5-of-12, 1 2B, 4 RBI) and sophomore Steve Gendron ( .286 ,4-of-14, 1 2B, 2 RBI). As a team, State hit .264 (28-of-106) for the three-game series. Teams were hitting .285 against Georgia pitching coming into the series. Georgia hit .293 against MSU hitting. Teams were hitting .261 against MSU pitching coming into the game.

MSU will now turn its sights to three opponents this week, Samford (Tuesday), Miss. Valley State (Wednesday) and Arkansas (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). All five of the games will be played in Starkville.


Over the course of the next few weeks Charles Johnson and I will be contacting prospective recruits to find out what they are thinking as far as what teams they are considering. So far, I have talked to ten players. The ten are D'iberville HS DE Sean Merrill, Vicksburg HS OL Delvechio Ellis, DL Johnny Daniels, Amory HS TE Linzy Patterson, Caledonia HS TE Dezmond Sherrod, Greenwood HS OL Brandon Davis, Copiah Academy TE Austin Baxter, Collins HS DL Corey Clark, Forrest County HS OL Steve Pahlman and Baldwyn HS OL Trey Powell. Charles, who was given a list of players by me late last week, has interviewed Kethone McLaurin of Collins HS.

All of the players have MSU either high on their list or on their list. Clark listed MSU fairly high, as did Ellis, Daniels, Pahlman (great friends with current Bulldog Chris McNeil), Sherrod, Patterson, Baxter (parents are MSU graduates) and McLaurin. Powell has an MSU family background but talked like he was solidly open. Merrill appears to be leaning to LSU, although I would have to put MSU second at this time. Almost all of these kids are potential top-25 Mississippi high school players. A few of them are even national or southeast-type recruits (Merrill, Ellis, Clark and Daniels). All of the interviews will be posted this week. We will also be interviewing other Mississippi juniors as well as several out of state juniors in the surrounding states.

As a side note, I have also been interviewing high school football coaches in Mississippi and Memphis over the past few weeks. As you who have been reading the interviews know, I am asking the coaches if they have any D-I prospects on their teams. I will continue to call the coaches in Mississippi, Memphis and a few other areas, until I have contacted all - 300 in Mississippi alone - who have football programs at their high schools. So far, I have contacted 23 coaches. Those interviews will be posted on my page over the course of the next two weeks. The interviews include coaches from talent-filled Collins HS, Clarksdale HS, Brandon HS, Vicksburg HS, Hamilton HS (Memphis) and East HS (Memphis).


Gene's Page will be adding its own chat page within the next two weeks. I will be having personal chat sessions with you guys during the month. I also hope to have college and recruiting experts within TheInsiders network in the chat room at various times throughout the year.


Mary Ann has recently added all of the MSU summer sports camps to the calendar. If you have a son or daughter who would like to attend a camp, check out the Gene's Page calendar for details.

If you have a MSU related event coming up and you don't see it listed on the Gene's Page calendar, email Mary Ann your information and she will post it on the calendar. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's email address is maryannswindoll@hotmail.com.

Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles:
April 1, 2002
March 25, 2002
March 4, 2002
Feb. 25, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 11, 2002
Feb. 4, 2002
Jan. 28, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 14, 2002
Jan. 7, 2002
Dec. 31, 2001
Dec. 24, 2001
Dec. 17, 2001
Dec. 10, 2001
Dec. 3, 2001
Nov. 26, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 12, 2001
Nov. 7, 2001

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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