Stansbury Dismisses Sharpe, Houston

Walter Sharpe has had his last strike. And Jerrell Houston's first varsity season has already ended.

Coach Rick Stansbury announced Tuesday evening that both Sharpe and Houston are no longer part of the Mississippi State basketball roster. In an official statement released at 7:30 the coach gave 'violation of team rules' as reason for making the move at this point of the 2005-06 season.

"Walter and Jerrell have both been dismissed from the Mississippi State basketball team," Stansbury said in the release. "Both young men are good people, but unfortunately things just didn't work out for them here. We wish them both well in their future endeavors."

Sharpe is a sophomore forward-center, and Houston a redshirt freshman forward. Both were playing as backups this season, though neither was getting regular time on-court and each had missed entire games for disciplinary reasons. Both played in Saturday's loss at Ole Miss.

After providing the formal statement to the Media Relations office Stansbury did speak directly with some media members, including with Dawgs' Bite in his Humphrey Coliseum office. But he asked that the single official comment be used by all, both saving him time returning calls and avoiding varying statements to different outlets. The release noted the coach would make no further comment on this matter.

Sharpe, who missed Monday's practice because he went home Sunday and was not going to return to campus on time, also did not practice Tuesday. Neither did Houston, who was seen with Sharpe at Humphrey Coliseum waiting to speak with the head coach. Practice ended at 5:40, and Stansbury did meet with Houston in his office.

Sharpe had earlier spoken to the Clarion-Ledger, telling the MSU beat writer he had been kicked off the team. Sharpe had been the topic of a team meeting, which he did not participate in, on January 8. After that, he still played in both the Florida and Ole Miss games. But missing Monday's preparation for the upcoming home game with LSU was the last straw…or strike, of which he has had many in a short but tumultuous college career.

Thus this dismissal was not a great surprise, as the soph had been in-and-out of good graces all season. He missed the first seven games of the season while regaining eligibility lost after withdrawing from State in the spring semester. In an effort that boded a turnaround in attitude, Sharpe successfully completed enough hours with a sufficient GPA to resume playing on December 10.

But after just one game he earned a team-rules suspension. He would be benched again in early January, and managed to get into just six games before final dismissal. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds for the aborted season.

Sharpe was a two-time All-State star at Birmingham's Parker High School, and the last member of State's 2004 signing class. His freshman season was another erratic adventure though. He got into 22 games as a substitute, averaging 8.9 minutes and 2.4 points. But he did not return to campus after the SEC Tournament on time for practices and was not on the NCAA Regional trip.

Houston's dismissal was for somewhat different reasons. The second-year swingman openly talked of transferring to a junior college after his redshirt season. He changed his mind early in the summer and spent the off-season on campus getting ready for his first varsity campaign. But Houston struggled to crack the lineup, though he did get one start when injuries limited the MSU roster in November. His small forward position was taken by freshman Jamont Gordon, and Houston's minutes have been limited at best. He was averaging 2.3 points and 2.2 minutes when he did get on court.

Houston prepped at East High School in Memphis. Speculation is that with three years of college eligibility left, and with good academic status, he should be able to find a program to play for in the region for next year, perhaps in Arkansas or Missouri. One regret by the MSU basketball office is that Houston's dismissal coming at the same time as Sharpe's could taint the former's image, as he is leaving over dissatisfaction with expected playing time now and in the future.

Sharpe's future is much more complicated. Not only has he used two seasons of college eligibility, his academic status is doubtful at best. In fact it was going to be very close on meeting the progress rule to be able to play at MSU in 2006-07 had he not been dismissed. With no junior college option, Sharpe's best choice would be playing in a Division II or NAIA school now, possibly in the state of Alabama.

The Bulldogs, now down to 11 scholarship players, host LSU at 7:00 Wednesday night in Humphrey Coliseum.

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