"I think following this basketball team was an experience that will long be remembered. We certainly want to recognize them this evening, individually and collectively. And to recognize the achievements of this past season this evening. It has been outstanding.
"Basketball at Mississippi State, prior to the coming of Babe McCarthy of whom this group meets under his name and this banquet is being held, was something that was done basically between fall football and spring football. I think it was done to keep the guys out of the pool room (audience laughed).
"But Coach McCarthy changed that situation. Coach Adolph Rupp of the University of Kentucky, recognized as a legend and a builder of great basketball tradition, had the only team in the Southeastern Conference that had any kind of recognition. Coach Babe McCarthy changed that. And Mississippi State, over the years, has had some excellent basketball teams, teams that have had great achievements. And this team is one of them.
"When we were in Atlanta watching the Mississippi State basketball team win the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship, I had the opportunity to spend a number of minutes with (MSU Interim President) Dr. Charles Lee and his wife Pat. I had never had the opportunity to meet them before. We sat down in the lobby of the hotel on two or three different occasions and talked basketball, and believe it or not I was included in things other than sports. I didn't contribute a lot you understand (laugh). It is with a great deal of pleasure that I ask the Interim President of Mississippi State University Dr. Charles Lee if he would come to the podium and speak with you this evening, Dr. Lee."
Dr. Charles Lee:
"It is not often someone like me gets a chance to spend as much time with a legend as we had to spend during games in Atlanta.
"The first thing that I want to say is thanks to everybody in this room for making my first two months in this job so successful in athletics. And for doing it in such an exciting way. Thanks to everybody in this room (audience applauded).
"Let me thank all of you for joining us this evening to express our appreciation to the players, to the coaches and to the staff for an exceptional year by any measure. Let me also say to alumni, and other supporters of this team how important you are. We would have not been successful without you. Let me also remind everybody that we owe a great deal to the parents of the student-athletes that are here tonight. Thank you for trusting us with your sons. I hope that your faith in us will always be rewarded.
To the players, coaches, trainers and everyone who played a part in making this season such a great success, thank you on behalf of the entire university community. Thank you not only for your achievements but thank you for the way in which you represented Mississippi State, day in and day out.
"Pat and I were fortunate to be in Atlanta. We stayed and stayed and stayed. We just kept staying. (audience laughed) My grandson in Virginia was watching all of this on the tv. He kept saying, 'how long is it going to go'. I said it is going all the way. And sure enough it did. You were so professional. I remember when we walked down on the court at the end you were excited but confident. You were there because you deserved to be there and you knew that.
"Athletics is one of the very important windows between a general public and an institution such as this. A great deal of our efforts to build a national visibility profile for this university and to enhance its reputation as a national institution comes about because of success in athletics. It comes to people's attention. That is the only reason that my 12-year old grandson would care about it. He just wants to be with the winners. And so he has all kinds of paraphernalia. Thank you for all of that.
"The basketball season brought a great deal of excitement and satisfaction to all of us whether we were there for those last few games or not.
"I don't think I will ever see a face that was prouder of being a Mississippian, prouder of being an alum of this institution, than Mr. Glen McCullough, the chairman of TVA. He was standing on the row next to us at the final buzzer and he knocked three of us down in his excitement. We went down on the court and I looked back and there was Glen McCullough standing right up there and his face had a look of rapture on it. I will never forget how he looked then.
"It takes an entire community to be successful in anything. Whether you were playing on the court, whether you were broadcasting the game, whether you were working behind the scenes in whatever way, thank you so much for all that you did.
"In keeping with Mississippi State's commitment to reward exceptional achievement and with the full support of Athletic Director (Larry) Templeton, I wanted to tell you that we have made a significant recommendation to the Board of Trustees for action this week to extend Rick's (Stansbury) contract. (extended applause from the audience)
"Thank you Rick and your team for a job very well done. Now, Meo (Rick' wife Meo is pregnant and due anytime), it is time for you to go have that baby. (audience laughed)
Jack Cristil then introduced MSU AD Larry Templeton.
MSU AD Larry Templeton.
"Thank you very much, roomie. If you can make it back up those steps one more season, we are going to give you a lifetime contract to remain as the voice of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Nobody does it better. (audience applauded)
"Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament champions, it sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
"This is a true story. After we beat Alabama for the Southeastern Conference Championship and before the Commissioner presented the trophy to our basketball team, he walked over to me and said, 'do you still want to make that recommendation that you made Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Athletic Directors meeting?' To make a long story short, I made the motion that next year we play the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament in New Orleans. I made that because in 1996 we won the tournament in New Orleans. When I made that motion, I said, 'I am tired of coming to Atlanta.' The Commissioner reminded me that I had made that motion and that I might want to leave the tournament in Atlanta. I said, 'it doesn't matter as long as my basketball team gets to go with us, we will win it wherever we end up.' (extended applause by the audience)
"To a group of five seniors, on behalf of the Mississippi State family, I just want to say how proud, how thrill, and how excited we are for the great memories that you helped bring to us this past season. I am more proud of what the audience will have the opportunity to see later this evening on the video. These young guys don't talk about a special win or the scoring of a certain bucket. You pay attention tonight when they, as a group, all five of them talk about something we at Mississippi State take great pride in when we mention the word family. Guys, I appreciate what you said on that tape because I know it comes from the bottom of your heart. This is one special family. Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to ask the five seniors to please stand, because in this day and time when intercollegiate athletics is been judged for producing athletes and not student-athletes, I want you to look at five seniors that are on track to graduate from Mississippi State University. Guys stand up, please. (extended applause by the audience when the players stood)
"To the parents of these student-athletes, from the Mississippi State family, thank you for sharing them with us. I know you take as much pride in their accomplishments as we do.
"To Coach Stansbury, and Robert (Kirby) and Phil (Cunningham), we say thank you for your great leadership of these young men. It is with a great deal of pleasure that we look forward to continuing this basketball tradition.
[Templeton thanked various folks including the Babe McCarthy Tip-Off Club, young fan Wade Sims, Mr. Davis Wade, John Correro and the MSU Alumni Association, basketball office, athletic staff, Bulldog Club and alumni group, student workers, team doctors, cheerleaders, pom squad, mascots, bands, Jack Cristil and Jim Ellis, Bennie Ashford and his MSU television crew, former MSU basketball player Bailey Howell at this time.]
Jack Cristil introduced Coach Rick Stansbury.
MSU Coach Rick Stansbury
[Rick received a standing ovation.]
"Thank you very much. And I truly mean that.
"Jack, what a lot of folks don't know is that you and Jim give me a scouting report before every game. I took your advice this year and it worked out well for us." (audience laughed)
[Stansbury thanked everyone for coming to the banquet. He thanked former academic advisor Linda Buehler and current academic advisor Linda Moore, the parents of the players, MSU students, Rick's Rowdies, Dr. Ellis (MSU's sports psychologist), trainer Jay Logan, MSU media relations for basketball David Rosinski, basketball secretary Toni Black, student worker Nicki and his assistants Robert Kirby (and his wife Val Kirby), Phil Cunningham and former assistant Stan Jones and his wife Meo. He also thanked strength coach Richard Akins.]
"We lost six seniors from last year. If I was the media, I would have picked us last. The things we knew were the things the media couldn't see everyday. Things such as how hard they worked, the heart that we believed that they had. We saw this in the off-season, we saw it in the summer time. Maybe in the past, we had to prod some guys to go to the gym. This group was going to the gym. One guy would pull one of them in and before you knew it, you had all 10 or 12 of them in the basketball gym. As I said before, players are made from March to October. I think this team is a perfect example of that.
"We started off 11-0. Some people questioned the schedule. It wasn't about that. We had some tremendous wins at that time. We went on the road and won at Lafayette. We went on the road and won at Richmond. The previous year they had beaten us at home. Then, we went out to Vegas and had our first setback. Not setback but knock back. That was good for us, because I think we then went to another level. That win helped us win at Tulane.
"Then we had to start the SEC with five of our first eight on the road. And two of our home games were against Kentucky and Tennessee, a team that I thought was the most talented team in the SEC when they had Slay in their lineup. It was very important to find a way to keep this group up. I really felt like we needed to be 4 and 4 at the split. We started it off against Kentucky. During that game, everybody saw the making of a championship basketball team. We were down 30-10 at one time. Once we got it down to 10, the game changed. It was a totally different basketball team from that time on. The way we won it set the mark for everything else that followed. From there on, we were able to go 4 and 4 at the split. I knew we had 5 at home and 3 on the road on the backend. We were able to go 6 and 2. We begin the split against Georgia and lost to them. We then had the 5 ranked team, Alabama, coming in. Our young men had their backs to the wall but found a way to shut down the Alabama basketball team. From then on, we didn't stub our toe but one more time. We became a special team, defensively, at Vanderbilt. From there, we came back home and beat Ole Miss and Arkansas. At that point our team had a chance to not play its last road game very well. We went to South Carolina. We were in the tournament already, we were playing South Carolina on Senior Night and were playing them the last game they would play in their coliseum. They had everything to play for and we weren't playing for much. But these young men, when you turn the scoreboard on play to win. People don't understand how huge the win at South Carolina was.
"We then go into the SEC Tournament on a roll and having finished 2nd in the SEC. You hope to get a break but our break was we got Florida. Florida was what I thought was the best basketball team in the league. We felt like if we could get by Florida we could win it all. It was an unbelievable defensive effort. We had one man to get double figures on us. We then found a way to survive against a very good LSU basketball team, a team that was on the ropes. Believe it or not, we wanted that Alabama matchup. If you are going to play for a championship, you might as well do it against the regular season champs. And that was Alabama. I really felt like our team could out-tough them. And that is what we did. What a special moment that was to play for a championship. And not just any championship but a championship in the best league in America. These young men had that opportunity and went out and got it. That is something that they can take with them the rest of their life.
"Those that went to Dallas with us saw us start off slow. We finally started playing and won the game (against McNeese). We ran into a very good Texas team and dug ourselves into a hole. But once again you saw the heart and fight in these young men. If we had had another 30 seconds or another minute, that would have been a different outcome. I couldn't be prouder of what these young men accomplished. What they accomplished is very, very special.
Here are a few things that the team accomplished.
[Stansbury then awarded two special awards (plaque and basketball) to Charles Lee and Larry Templeton.]
[Next up was Stansbury awarding the players team awards (team picture, NCAA watch, championship plaque, senior awards.]
"First off, let me explain why Mario Austin is not here. I went down to see his mother this morning. She is in the hospital. Mario and his mother both had intentions of being here but she went into the hospital Saturday. Mario didn't feel comfortable leaving his mother. Whatever awards he wins, we will make sure he gets those.
"First up is Marcus Campbell. Everybody that saw Marcus play this year as a freshman saw his potential. There is no question that this offseason will make a tremendous difference in him.
"Timmy Bowers. Timmy was a young man that we saw things in practice that none of the rest of you had the opportunity to see. As a freshman, he played behind a senior and didn't get to play a lot. There was no question saw his play this year. Timmy Bowers has a chance to be one of the better players who have played at this university before he graduates.
"One of my five seniors, Brandon Carr. Brandon was a three-year walk-on for us. He got his degree in December in Business Management. There were many days in practice, and my players will attest to this, I had to get Brandon off of them. Brandon is one of the most aggressive players that you would ever want to see practice. Those are the kind of people who make your team successful.
"Another senior, Guy Gardner. Guy was one of our senior captains this year. There is no question that the role he played on this team was invaluable. Guy will come back next fall to do his student teaching. He wants to be a coach. He has a gpa of 3.4. I promise you that Guy Gardner will be a terrific coach.
"The other senior captain, Michael Gholar. You got that helmet on Mike. This young man gets his degree in May. I am particularly proud of this young man. He has been with us for five years. I will never forget what his high school counselor said, 'he can't make it in college.' Not only did he make it in college, but he will get his degree from Mississippi State and he is walking away from Mississippi State with the SEC Championship ring on his finger. I am very proud for him. (extended applause). He said he will play football.
"Roy Goffer. Roy had a huge setback. I will go ahead and tell you Roy's situation. He got ruled ineligible for 8 games and the NCAA also took a year away from him. He went from having three years this year to one year left. It was very tough on Roy not being able to play for the first 8 game. Because they took that one year away from him, Roy had one year left for division-1 and two years left for division-2. Because it is best for him academically, Roy has decided to go somewhere he can play where he has two years left. We are going to miss Roy next year.
"Ontario Harper. We saw him in practice last year and, as coaches, knew what he could be. I think you saw glimpses of what Ontario Harper can be for us next year. He is our best offensive rebounder and will become a terrific rebounder for us. There is no doubt that he has made tremendous strides in his maturity since being at Mississippi State.
"Iggy (Michel Ignerski). When Iggy first came here, I'm not sure he knew what he was getting into to then he met Coach Akins. If he could have gotten back on that ship to Poland, he would have probably gotten back on that first day. (audience laughed). Everybody has witnessed the adjustment and improvement this young man made. He missed a few games early in the season and he got hurt. His first SEC game was a rude awakening for him. He had to go against Kentucky. Then he had to go on the road and the next game was against Arkansas. However, you saw Iggy get more and more comfortable. By the SEC Tournament, he was very, very special for us. You will see bigger and better things from this young man next season. He will have the spring, summer and fall to hit those weights with Coach Akins.
"Senior Marckell Patterson. Marckell will earn his degree in May. He is 17th on the all-time scoring list. He has 86 starts at Mississippi. He ranks among the leaders as a scorer his junior and senior years. He ranked among the SEC leaders as a junior and senior free-throw percentage-wise.
"Lincoln Smith. Lincoln lost 40 pounds from last year and he continues to lose weight. I think you saw glimpses of what Lincoln can do for us defensively. There is no question that his defensive ability help us in the last part of the season. He has a tremendous work ethic. That is why he is going to get better and better. We are going to need him to step up next year.
"Wesley Morgan. Most people who have seen him at the game probably thought he was our number one cheerleader. For sure he was our biggest cheerleader. He is 7-2, legit. He is 232 now and will be 252 at the start of fall practice, Coach Akins. I think everybody will be surprised when you see this young man run down the floor. Even though he is 7-2, he is going to surprise you with his quickness, run and catch and score the basketball. The thing that he needs is something that we can put on him, that is weight. We are looking for big things from him in the future and next year.
"Winsome Frazier. I look at Winsome's situation as very similar to Timmy's last year. Timmy didn't play a lot as a freshman, not as much as he wanted to. This young man didn't either. That is what made the team so special, we had young men who sacrificed for the good of the team. He wasn't happy with his playing time. I don't blame him. He is the type of young man who will work hard in the off-season. He is going to be a terrific player for us next season. He is one of our best shooters. Next year, you will have the opportunity to see that.
"The last senior, Corey Stidham. Corey graduates in May. Corey wants to go into teaching and coaching. Corey made the all-academic honor roll. Like Brandon, he didn't always play a lot of minutes but he made invaluable contributions in practice that made our basketball team better. Thank you so much, Corey.
"Did I leave out anybody? Oh yeah, Z (Zimmerman). (audience laughed). There is no question that the improvements that this young man made in the off-season were immense. Watch for more improvements next year. Z, thanks so much."
[Stansbury then gave awards to the managers, Vince Ford, Kyle Weidie, John Easly, Jamie Humphrey, Troy Kestenbaum.]
[He next gave out individual awards.]
Next up was the highlight film. Here are a few comments on it made by the seniors.
Corey Stidham: (My tape recorder did not tape Corey's words.)
Brandon Carr: "I am not going to miss the games. I am going to miss being around my friends, my team, the coaches. They become your family when you are here for 3 or 4 years."
Guy Gardner: "The thing I will miss most is the locker room. You are all family. That is the only way to describe it. You are 14 brothers. You would lay your life on the line for them. That was the greatest part of it."
Marckell Patterson: "SEC Champions in America, what more could you ask for as a senior. Everybody in the gym is clapping for you, it is a great feeling. You really can't explain it. Walking up that ladder and cutting that net down and seeing your family in the crowd, that was a blessing from God."
Michael Gholar: "This team will not be on the floor next year. There will be a lot of players back next year, but the 2002 team is gone. We started out with a lot goals at the start of the season and accomplished most of them."
[The banquet ended once the highlight film was through.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.