[Premium article] During a Monday afternoon press conference, Mississippi State sophomore basketball player Mario Austin told the media why he decided returning to MSU for his junior season instead of declaring for the NBA draft was the best thing for him. MSU Coach Rick Stansbury also answered questions about Mario's decision."> [Premium article] During a Monday afternoon press conference, Mississippi State sophomore basketball player Mario Austin told the media why he decided returning to MSU for his junior season instead of declaring for the NBA draft was the best thing for him. MSU Coach Rick Stansbury also answered questions about Mario's decision.">

Austin and Stansbury Talk About Austin Returning

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/basketball/2002/marioaustin.jpg" align="left" width="124" height="145"> [Premium article] During a Monday afternoon press conference, Mississippi State sophomore basketball player Mario Austin told the media why he decided returning to MSU for his junior season instead of declaring for the NBA draft was the best thing for him. MSU Coach Rick Stansbury also answered questions about Mario's decision.

Rick Stansbury: "We appreciate everybody coming out on such short notice. We thought this would be the best way to handle it. This is the way Mario wanted to handle it. Instead of everybody speculating about what was going on or calling Mario or myself, we wanted to get this out in the open by allowing you to ask us questions about Mario's situation. Mario will now issue his statement. We will then open it up for questions after that."

Mario Austin: "Basically, all that I want to say is by doing research I found out that it was best for me and my mom for Mario Austin to come back to Mississippi State for my junior year."

The press conference was then opened for questions from the media.

Mario, do you think the people who will criticize you or second guess you don't really know what you have gone through the past few weeks?
Mario Austin: "They really don't. I have really going through a lot, on the court and off the court. My mom has been real sick. With her condition of having heart trouble, it has been real tough on me. People think I just turned my back on them when I left. For me to come back here and sit in front of all of you and tell you how I feel and what I need to do says a really big statement."

Could you expand on what you mean by research?
Mario Austin: "Just finding information on where I would go (in the draft). I didn't like the situation so I decided to come back for my junior year."

Rick Stansbury: "Let me comment on something here, too, then you can come back to Mario. I think it says a lot for a young man to be able to make decisions that he has made both ways. I want everybody in here to understand, this decision is about Mario Austin. As I told Mario, he owes Mississippi State, myself, this team and alumni nothing. His decision he needed to make was what was best for him and his mother. To his credit, after doing some research on his own, and seeing that he wasn't going (in the draft) where he was told or hoped to go, he made the decision to come back because he felt it was best for he and his family. That wasn't easy to do after what he has been through. It says a lot about him."

Mario, after doing your research, what are some things you feel you need to work on this summer to improve yourself?
Mario Austin: "Defense and rebounding. I could have easily averaged 10 or 11 rebounds a game."

What did your teammates say to you when you told them you were coming back?
Mario Austin: "I talked to Zim and Tim. They liked my decision to come back. They are real happy that I am coming back. Like they told me earlier, when I talked to them, they would have been behind me 100% (no matter what decision I made). Like I told you, we are going to make a run for the national championship."

Mario, as much as you are comfortable talking about this, talk about how much your mom's illness factored into this decision?
Mario Austin: "It wasn't me trying to make money. My mom has always wanted me to play pro ball or just play basketball period. She has been with me my entire life. She pretty much raised me by herself in a single-parent home. My mom is very close to me and plays a major role in what I'm doing here."

How is your mother doing?
Mario Austin: "She is doing real good. She is out of the hospital."

Not just due to her illness, but how much influence did she personally have in your decision to come back to Mississippi State?
Mario Austin: "Very big. I sat down and had a talk with her about two to three days ago. I asked her to tell me from her heart what she really wanted me to do. She told me she would like to see me go to school. So, I'm here."

How much advice have you gotten from people telling you what you needed to do?
Mario Austin: "You have people telling you maybe you can go here or go there but I didn't want to listen to them. I wanted to talk to the main people and do the right research. I talked to some people and I didn't like my chances so I decided to come back for my junior year."

How tough were the last few weeks on you?
Mario Austin: "It has been tough. My mom has been sick. Everybody has been pulling on me, telling me this and telling me that. It has been real tough on me."

You mentioned at one time that you would attend some NBA camps. How many camps did you participate in?
Mario Austin: "I didn't go to any."

Rick, what was your feelings during the last few weeks?
Rick Stansbury: "I didn't get into that. My main objective these last two weeks, I think Mario will tell you this, was to tell Mario to take all of us out of the scenario. Take all the things the alumni are going to say, take all the things your fans want you to do. That is not important right now. The only thing that is important is what is best for you and your mother. I didn't have the facts. He had to talk to the people in that profession that had the facts. He talked to people in the know, not people like myself who naturally would have loved for him to come back or for people who wanted to represent him because it was best for them. He needed to talk to the people who had nothing to gain from it, people who could tell them the honest facts about what was going on."

What will Mario have to do in the classroom since he has missed three weeks of school?
Rick Stansbury: "He is going to be fine, academically. He will have to go to summer school to make up some hours. Academically, he was in such good standing gpa-wise and amount of hours, it really didn't affect him."

Did he have to drop this semester's classes?
Rick Stansbury: "He dropped those classes and will make up what he needs in the summertime."

You mentioned that you talked to people who didn't have an agenda. Were there specific teams that you talked to that you felt told you straight up?
Rick Stansbury: "Let me talk about that. His mother was able to talk to some teams and maybe some people in the NBA office that didn't have anything to gain from it. Those were the people he and his mother talked to during their research."

What did those people tell you?
Mario Austin: "They just basically told me some things that I needed to work on as a player and they told me another year wouldn't hurt."

How tough is it on a kid like you to have to make a decision like this since you know the NBA can draft a college player after any year, freshman to senior? Would it be easier if the NBA did the same thing that Major League Baseball does and that is to wait until kids are finished with their junior year or have turned 21 years old?
Mario Austin: "It would be nice if it was that way."

Rick Stansbury: "It would be nice for him, but it would be nicer for me. (laugh)"

Do you think that should be addressed?
Rick Stansbury: "It has been addressed many times. Put some type of rule in. Once a young man has entered school, put a guideline in where he knows in his own mind that he can't leave until he is a junior. The baseball rule is a good example. (Mario agreed with this comment while Rick was talking.-Gene) I think a lot of coaches would be in favor of the baseball rule. That doesn't stop the young men from going to the NBA out of high school. They could still do that. Once they enter college, let's make sure everybody that is involved understands that the player is there until his junior year."

Did you actually declare for the draft and then withdraw your name?
Mario Austin: "I never sent the letter in."

When you were packing up your belongings in York, Alabama and coming back here, what was going through your mind?
Mario Austin: "Basically, getting back here and working and getting myself back into shape. And get ready for next year."

Did you think about what it would be like to see Timmy and the rest of the guys?
Mario Austin: "I called them before I was about to leave. They kind of laughed at me. They laughed at me. They were real excited to see me."

Since you have made the decision to stay at Mississippi State, what are your feelings right now?
Mario Austin: "Right now, I am just happy to be back. When I made my first decision, I didn't have any research and didn't really know my situation. To come back here and sit in front of y'all is really great for me."

Rick, what were your personal feelings when you knew Mario was coming back?
Rick Stansbury: "Selfishly speaking, we all wanted Mario back. Just like you did, you did and you did. That is why I said in decision-making, you had to take that out. He had to make a selfish decision. I told him to make a selfish decision as to what was best for you and your mother. You had to be selfish right now. You did everything I asked you to two years ago. You came to Mississippi State and helped us win a championship. In return, we said we would help you get to the NBA. All that has turned out to be true. Now, you owe us nothing, make the decision that is best for you and your mother. After gathering all of the information, he was able to make a decision that was best for him and his mother. And that was to return for his junior year. Was I happy that he came to this decision? Yes sir."

Yesterday was the NFL football draft. A few underclassmen declared and didn't get drafted. Did you think about that?
Mario Austin: "Yes, sitting there watching it, I knew that could have easily happened to me."

Why did you make the earlier decision of declaring for the draft without doing research? Was it more of a spur of the moment type decision?
Mario Austin: "I think it was. Gathering the research and talking to people really helped (me make my decision)."

Coach, the NBA scouts have seen some things that Mario needs to improve on. Are you going to try to work that into the gameplan next year?
Rick Stansbury: "We are going to work them into the gameplan not because of what the NBA scouts said but because those are the things that Mario needs to improve on. The things that he needs to improve on to make him a better player for that next level is that he has to become more of a perimeter player, more of a power forward. What I mean by that is he has to continue to work on perimeter skills. Mario has a lot of perimeter skills that you haven't seen. You will see him work on those skills spring, summer and fall and you will see the difference next year. That makes everybody better, the team becomes better and Mario Austin becomes better."

You still have three weeks to go before the NBA draft declaration deadline passes. How will you deal with the people who will continue to try and get you to declare?
Mario Austin: "Not receive calls (laugh). It will be tough. People will be calling my mom at home trying to get me to do things. My mom is not going to listen. She is going with whatever my decision is. Now that she knows that I have made my decision to come back to school, that is it. She will not try to make me change my mind."

Knowing how difficult the decison was this time, will your junior year be it for you?
Mario Austin: "(Laugh) I can't answer that right now. If I have a good junior year and I want to come back, I will come back for my senior year."

You mentioned that Mario would play more like a power forward next season. Are you going to move him from center to power forward?
Rick Stansbury: "Gene, you are wanting the gameplan already." (everybody laughed). "We have baseball to finish up and football and you are already wanting to know what the gameplan will be for next season. Ask that question again in November (laugh)."

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 email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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