News from MSU Media Relations--April 4

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Men's Basketball, Track & Field, Men's Tennis and Women's Tennis.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - For his season-long, shot-blocking exploits, Mississippi State sophomore Jarvis Varnado has been named the 2007-08 National Defensive Player of the Year.

Earlier this week, Varnado was one of 16 players named to the Defensive All-America team.

A product of Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tenn., Varnado leads the nation with an average of 4.62 blocked shots per game. His 157 blocks on the season tied LSU's Shaquille O'Neal's all-time SEC season standard first established during the 1991-92 campaign. With the 157 blocks tying for 15th place on the NCAA's all-time, single-season chart, Varnado has individually blocked more shots than 305 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams (out of 341 NCAA Division I programs) during the current season, according to research provided by STATS out of Chicago.

The unanimous choice by a vote of the league's head coaches as the 2007-08 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Varnado also averaged 7.9 points and ranked as the conference's No. 6 rebounder at 7.8 boards per game on the year. Having been credited with five or more blocks on 17 occasions this season, Varnado recorded 10-block outings against NCAA Tournament entries Kentucky, Georgia and Miami (Fla.). In the Bulldogs' 69-64 home victory over the Wildcats on Jan. 15, he added 10 points and 12 rebounds to record the third triple-double in school history.

With a two-year total of 224 career blocks in 69 MSU outings (3.25 bpg), Varnado already ranks second on Mississippi State's all-time list behind Erick Dampier's three-year total of 249 career blocks. Varnado also presently tops MState's all-time chart in career field-goal percentage (.643) after shooting 64.1 percent from the field this past season.

At 6-foot-9, 210 pounds and with a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, Varnado's defensive presence in the post this season for coach Rick Stansbury's NCAA Tournament squad has enabled the 23-11 Bulldogs to rank second nationally as a team in blocked shots (7.85 bpg) and field-goal percentage defense (.370). For the second straight year, MSU also established a new all-time, single-season school standard for blocks with 267 rejects this season after 222 a year ago.

In recognition of his shot-blocking accomplishments this season, Varnado is showcased in a one-page photo feature entitled ‘Shootaround' currently available in the 2008 NCAA Men's Final Four Official Program, published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, CBS Sports and IMG.

Established in 1996, works in association with the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Track & Field
AUSTIN, Texas. - Mississippi State's 4x800-meter relay team ran an impressive seven minutes, 23.22 seconds to finish third and take over second place in MSU's all-time superlatives in the 4x800-meter relay on the second day of the Texas Relays. The relays continue tomorrow in Austin, Texas at the Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.

The tandem of junior Jonathan Rono, freshman Emanuel Mayers and seniors Golden Coachman and Chris Woods ran the race. While veterans Rono, Coachman and Woods ran the first, third and final legs, it was only Mayers' second time running 800 meters with his second leg hand-off. He ran the 800-meter last week at the Bulldog Invitational, only to finish second behind Woods.

The Bulldogs were one of three SEC teams to compete in the contest. LSU finished second in 7:19.89 and Arkansas in fifth with a time of 7:32.13. Texas was the overall winner, finishing in 7:17.63.

"I think we are in the running to be one of the top three teams in the nation in the 4x800-meter relay," said MSU Head Coach Al Schmidt. "It is a non-NCAA championship event, though. We are definitely going to go after those other two teams. We are in the range of being able to beat them."

Senior Kyle Roberts opened MSU's day, running in the 400-meter hurdles. Roberts crossed the line in 18th place, carding a time of 53.06. The all-Mideast Regional team member was the second SEC finisher in the 45 competitor field. LSU's Patrick Lee finished in fifth place.

MSU returns to action tomorrow with both 4x100-meter relay teams competing at 9:30 a.m. The men's 4x100-meter relay team has already qualified for the NCAA regionals, with their best time coming at the Bulldog Invitational (39.62), where they came in first place.

"We are in the top five in the country in the 4x100-meter relay, so we need a good preliminary to make the finals," said Schmidt. "The sprint medley will also be a huge race for us tomorrow."

To follow all the action from the Mike A. Myers Stadium at UT, go to Live results will be posted throughout the event. For video coverage of the Texas Relays, go to

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's 49th-ranked men's tennis team will open its final home weekend Friday, as it host 16th-ranked LSU at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on the MSU campus. Match time is slated for a 2 p.m. CT start.

The Bulldogs, 8-8 this season, will be looking to up their current home mark of 6-1 and look to match the most home wins since 2005 when MSU had seven.

A pair of Bulldog seniors in Ivan Bjelica and Philippe Frayssinoux lead the charge for MSU. Bjelica moved up to 26th in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association's poll this past week while Frayssinoux is 57th. Bjelica is 5-2 in Southeastern Conference matches this season and has won four of his last five. Having won six of his last seven matches, Frayssinoux leads the team with 22 wins this season and has evened his conference mark at 4-4. Junior Ryan Farlow has won six of his last seven and has notched 21 total victories this season.

LSU enters Friday's match with an 11-6 overall record. The Tigers are coming off a victory over eighth-ranked Florida last weekend at home and are winners in three of their last five matches. LSU is led by 47th-ranked Michael Venus and 118th-ranked Jan Zelezny. Venus is 9-6 in dual match play while Zelezny is has posted 19 overall wins this year. In doubles, the team of Venus and James Cluskey is ranked 30th nationally.

Following Friday's match, MSU will conclude its home schedule Sunday, April 6 as the Bulldogs play host to Arkansas for senior day. Sunday's match is set for a 1 p.m. CT.

Women's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Head coach Tracy Lane and the Mississippi State Lady Bulldog tennis team travel to 33rd-ranked Louisiana State University on Friday, April 3, and continues on to 14th-ranked Arkansas Sunday, April 6, to close out their 2008 regular-season road schedule. The match with the Lady Tigers of LSU is set for 3 p.m. CT on Friday, while Sunday's contest against the Razorbacks is slated for 12 p.m.

MSU enters this weekend's action with a 7-9 overall record. MSU dropped two close matches with Southeastern Conference foes No. 23 Kentucky (13-6) and 11th-ranked Vanderbilt (15-3) this past weekend.

The match versus LSU will serve as the 36th meeting between the two schools. LSU currently claims a 27-8 all-time the series. However, the series is tied 2-2 in matches played in Baton Rouge dating back to the year 2000. LSU enters the match 10-8 on the season and 3-5 in SEC play.

The match on Sunday will mark only the 17th meeting between State and Arkansas. The all-time series is tied at 8-8 with Arkansas holding a slight 5-3 edge in matches played in Fayetteville. Arkansas is 13-6 in 2008 with a league play record of 6-2.

Following this weekend's action, the Lady Bulldogs will finish out the 2008 regular season at home against in-state rival Mississippi on Saturday, April 14. The match against the Lady Rebels is set for 1 p.m. at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.

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