Rhodes' Last Ride

One of Mississippi State's most beloved basketball players, Charles Rhodes, will take to the Humphrey Coliseum floor for the final time Saturday afternoon before a regionally televised audience.

Charles Rhodes was the jewel of the 2004 MSU signing class. The class originally consisted of four players, but only Rhodes remains on the roster.

Charles will be honored along with Billy Begley on senior day Saturday afternoon when the Bulldogs take on former basketball alum Butch Pierre and his Bayou Bengals of LSU.

The journey to senior day began a few years back when Rhodes committed to Mississippi State over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Connecticut and Oklahoma.

Like most highly recruited players, Charles spent a lot of time traveling to AAU events and summer showcases.

Shortly before the summer circuit began in earnest, Rhodes took time out to tell us what his competition could expect when they faced off with his Jackson Tigers AAU team.

"Oh, yeah after the game is over with, they will know who Charles Rhodes is."

It was the first of many times when Rhodes would refer to himself in third person. In fact a media event just felt a little empty if Charles failed to deliver such a comment.

Rhodes saw action during his freshman season mainly against the non-conference slate, but Charles had his coming out party on the road in Lexington, Kentucky.

Charles recorded season and then career highs of eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. The "Manimal" was born.

High expectations and immaturity both followed Charles throughout his freshman year. Once the season concluded there was talk that Rhodes may elect to transfer.

Fellow 2004 signing classmates Walter Sharpe and Jerrell Houston did make the decision to move on to other programs at season's end.

Sharpe decided to transfer closer to home and settled on UAB. Since leaving Starkville, the troubled Sharpe has since been the victim of a shooting, diagnosed with a sleeping disorder and eventually found academically ineligible for the 2008 spring semester.

Houston transferred to Tennessee State where he is a junior starter averaging just over 11 points per game.

Rhodes decided to stick with Coach Rick Stansbury and the Maroon and White.

"Mississippi State is the only place I've ever wanted to be," said Rhodes about his decision to stay. "I'm looking forward to helping this team compete for future championships."

Charles thrived during his sophomore season, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. In a home game against Auburn, Rhodes nabbed a school record 14 defensive rebounds.

The Bulldogs struggled to a 5-11 league mark and just 15-15 overall during the 2005-2006 season. The young pups matured as the season went along and Charles earned 2nd team All-SEC honors for his solid play.

Charles' junior season he helped lead the Bulldogs to an 8-8 record in league play which was good enough to win the SEC Western Division and secure the west's number one seed in the SEC tournament.

Rhodes was a key figure in the MSU blowout win of Alabama on senior day and the overtime win over Kentucky in the SEC tournament.

It turns out the Bulldogs were a quality win short of making the NCAA men's basketball tournament, so Charles and company were able to host three big home wins in the N.I.T. before the Jackson native took his talents to Madison Square Garden for a heat breaking loss to West Virginia in the tournament's semi-finals.

Once the season concluded, Charles decided to test the waters of the NBA draft. The enigmatic Rhodes kept everyone guessing up until the very end.

The night before the deadline to withdraw from the draft pool Charles said this about returning for his senior season," It would be one more ride with Charles Rhodes and I want it to be the best one."

The following day Charles did withdraw from the draft for one more ride and it appears he saved the best for last.

Charles is currently averaging 16.4 points per game and 7.7 rebounds both of which are career highs.

The Bulldogs have won the outright SEC Western Division title and currently sit second in the overall conference standings both of which are also career bests for Charles.

Going into the game with LSU, Charles has scored 1,339 career points which is good enough for 10th on the all-time list behind Cameron "Smoke" Burns.

Rhodes' 648 career rebounds place him 14th in the MSU record books just six behind the player he was brought in to replace, Lawrence Roberts.

135 career blocked shots is good enough for sixth on the list, but Charles will have a hard time catching number five. That player, Jarvis Varnado, is still active and playing alongside him.

Charles' 56% career shooting percentage also places him in the top 10 in MSU basketball history. His shooting numbers have been helped by a school record number of career slam dunks.

Often times it is hard to appreciate greatness when it appears in the present, but make no mistake Rhodes is one of the greatest players to ever wear the Maroon and White.

This Saturday afternoon near the conclusion of the game, Hank Flick will say, "Ladies and Gentleman Charles Rhooooodes," one last time.

Charles will then go back out to center court and kiss the center of the M-State logo just like he has down the past two years, but this time when he turns and waves goodbye to the Humphrey Coliseum crowd he will mean it.

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