Rick Stansbury Talks Bulldog Basketball

Rick Stansbury is relaxed, in the office, and available. Any of these facts is unusual enough during the basketball calendar's year-round whirlwind; all at the same time qualifies as a miracle. Fortunately Dawgs' Bite was able to catch the coach relaxing, feet on desk, and ready to talk off-season roundball. Why, the desk phone only rang once during the entire talk and his cellphone not at all.

Thus Stansbury was able to give a good, long interview covering a lot of items. Enough so to spread over a couple of June days. Today's first half covers a subject of more immediate interest to Bulldog fans: what Stansbury thinks about his incoming signing class both collectively and individually, and how the newest Dogs will fit in with their elders.

The second half will discuss where those veteran Dogs stand going into a new season, the entire team outlook, the 2006-07 schedule, and other items.

DB: How do you evaluate the incoming class as a group?

Stansbury: "I think we filled our needs we were looking to fill. We wanted to add some perimeter depth to our team and guys who could make shots. We weren't necessarily looking for starters, that's why we didn't sign any junior college kids in the perimeter. We signed three high school kids in the perimeter and we like all three of them. Number-one, they're all great kids, fine character, all come from great family backgrounds. Two, all of them have tremendous upsides basketball-wise."

DB: Can you go into some detail about the five individual signees?

BARRY STEWART, G, Shelbyville, Tenn., Central HS – "The best way to describe Barry is a young Timmy Bowers. He does a little bit of everything. The biggest thing he needs right now is strength, he doesn't weigh but 160 pounds. But he has great athleticism and can really shoot the basketball. HE has a very high basketball I.Q. He's a three-time AAA player of the year in Tennessee, and went to the state championship game."

JARVIS VANARDO, F, Haywood, Tenn., HS – "Jarvis is coached by his Dad and is a high-character kid. He has great scoring ability and great athleticism, great timing on blocking shots. He's long-armed, they list him 6-9 but he's long and that makes him 6-11. He can run, he can jump, and he's got a lot of offensive ability inside and out. He just needs strength."

PHIL TURNER, G, Grenada, Miss., HS – "I think the biggest ‘sleeper' of all of them is Turner. Nobody knew much about him. He's the kind of kid that we didn't find out about until around the middle of January, until (former MSU player) George Brooks called us about him, told us we needed to see this kid. Different coaches went to see him at different times and every one of us had the same impression—he does a little bit of everything and reminds me a little of Timmy Bowers. He's a great kid, great family background, his Dad's a minister. I think this kid is just blossoming. He handles it, shoots it, passes it. And I think he possesses a lot of leadership abilities. Again, I think he has great ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim. We saw him get 30-some-odd points against Starkville and against Tupelo, on the road, in the south State games. You don't do that very often! I think he has a high ceiling."

BEN HANSBROUGH, G, Poplar Bluff, Mo., HS –"Everybody knows about his brother Tyler and wants to know if he's similar, they're totally different. But one quality they have in common, they are both so competitive and play so hard. That's the talent that links them together. I don't know if I've been around a young man that works any harder and is more competitive than Ben Hansbrough. He's a ‘throwback' kid, what I mean is he is an old-time player. A gym rat. He has a burr-haircut and is as tough physically and mentally as anybody you've seen play. And (he's) player of the year in Missouri. He's all-basketball, all about competing. You don't see a lot of kids like him nowadays, that's why I'm so high on him. He's just a great piece (of the puzzle), one of those guys that can give you great leadership and his work ethic and attitude can be contagious."

TRAVIS GABBIDON, F, Southern Idaho College –"Travis fits the piece that we need on this team. He can shoot the basketball, he made 80 three-pointers last year on a team that had six or seven Division-I players on it. He led that team in scoring, in one of the better junior college programs in the country. The greatest thing he does, he makes shots. He makes three-point shots. And he led his team in free throws made and attempted. He's a three-four guy but he can go in there and he knows how to draw fouls. I want to say he had more free throws than the rest of his team. He's not what you call a great athlete, he's a good athlete but he knows how to play. And he makes shots. He made more three-pointers than anyone on our team did last year.

"And he was one of the more impressive people we've had here on a visit, from a standpoint of the way he communicates, his attitude about working, about winning, about being a leader. He talked about all those things and his coach says that's what he is, his leadership ability is great in itself. I just think he's a good piece, and a great kid."

DB: Unlike some recent years you weren't looking to sign a ‘team' but to add pieces?

Stansbury: "Well, it would have been hard anyway to bring in a JC perimeter guy over the top of any of the guys we've got. It's hard to bring somebody in front of Reggie and Richard Delk or Jamont Gordon. The way I felt, our team ended up last season playing well so we needed depth as much as anything and guys who could make shots. Those are the things we've added. The three perimeter guys can all shoot the basketball and Travis' greatest asset is he can shoot.

"Again, I think we put in pieces. We got the one JC kid, Gabbidon, to help on that backline and a guy who could stretch out and make shots. That's why I like the pieces we've put together with the veterans. We didn't have to go out and get a whole team, we had to get pieces to fit with the team we had. I think we've put the pieces together. And all of them have high ceilings, they can be terrific players. But I think they're guys that come in and you put them in roles as young guys."

DB: Speaking of roles, how do you break down the specific roles of the backcourt kids?

Stansbury: "I don't know yet. I don't know for sure what Ben Hansbrough is, what Phil Turner is. I don't know if they're best at one or two. I know Ben is capable of playing more than one position because physically he can guard twos and threes. Barry is a shooter, a guy who can jump up and make shots. Phil does a little of everything. Those are questions we'll have to answer when they get here. And it's not like our perimeter is real ‘defined'! We don't have set positions, like last year Richard, Reggie, and Jamont were all perimeter guys. If you can do a little of everything that's fine. Naturally you have one of them bring it up, but if you have one who can do that and another who can rebound and bring it up we'll do that, too.

"I like guys that have got some versatility to them, and you don't have to limit them to just being able to do one thing."

DB: You've gone from building around bigger, stouter centers—Tyrone Washington, Robert Jackson, Mario Austin, Lawrence Roberts—to now having more athletic post players.

Stansbury: "Well, it's based on what your recruiting is. I think you have to adjust as a coach to what that is. I mean, would I like to have another Mario Austin or Lawrence Roberts in there? Absolutely I would. But that's not what we have and not what we are right now. The makeup of our team is probably smaller and quicker.

"When you look back, we played small four years ago when we won the SEC Tournament with Michael Gholar at four with Mario inside. So you look at Charles Rhodes, that kind of guy, he's a quicker, better athlete, all that. It made Charles a better player last year playing small with him. We were able for the most part to hide him defensively and find a way for a sixth year in a row to lead this league in some type of rebounding, I didn't know we'd led in offensive rebounding. The five previous years we led in rebound margin. So we found a way to rebound the basketball, and that has a lot to do with your perimeter guys. I've always said great rebounding teams are teams that can rebound with ones, twos, and threes. We had a one (Gordon) that got us about seven-eight a game!"

DB: How does the new piece inside affect that rotation?

Stansbury: "I don't know yet. Those are questions yet to be answered. Where does Vernon Goodridge step up at and play; where does Travis Gabbidon come in and play at. I think we've got some versatility to play big with Vernon and Charles out there together, or we go smaller and quicker with Charles moving down and Travis at a four. I think we've got some flexibility right there. But if you look at the makeup of our team right now, you can say it's more like we finished up last year. It's more of a quicker team than a bigger team."

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