"I'm just really excited about the season. Our guys that we have coming in are getting everything down quick and are learning quick."
It was mentioned in the press conference that you lost a lot of weight from last year. How big did you get last year?
"When I got here I was about 270. Now, I'm like 255, and that's good weight, not bad weight."
You are not only a big guy, but you are a really athletic guy as well. What are some things you can do that shows that athleticism?
"As far as a big man, I can handle the ball like a guard, not a big man. I also have quick hops, a quick jump. Last year, with my size I couldn't show it. Now, with this size I can show it."
What will State fans see this year that they didn't see from you last year?
"They are going to see the same as last year, but more. There is going to be more offense and more defense, more crashing the boards. I have to take Charles Rhodes' spot."
How do you compare to Charles Rhodes?
"My heart. I play with my heart. There is nothing bigger than my heart. Injuries, I don't let them bother me. I'm hurt right now, but I won't show it. I pulled my hip some kind of way, but I treat it like it's not even there."
Is that something you have - mental toughness?
Have you always had mental toughness or is it something you have learned to develop while at Mississippi State?
"I have always had it. It's something that I was born with."
Offensively, what will State fans see from you?
"They are going to see me grabbing boards, getting garbage points, posting up ... a little of everything. I'm not going to say threes because those only come every once in a while. But the coaches have been working with me on the post."
Where do you fit on this team?
"I am a hustle player. If they want me to score on the block, I will score on the block. If they want me to get a rebound, I will get a rebound."
You are a big physical guy who is also a very good athlete. That describes a guy who can be a very good defensive player to the point where you can be put on the other teams offensive big man. Is that going to be a role of yours?
"Yes sir. And I like defense. I like being able to body people up, let them know that I'm just as tough as they are."
What are you seeing from some of the returning guys and new guys that excite you for this team?
"The player who excites me the most is Kodi Augustus. He is a very athletic player who goes at it hard. He can shoot from the outside. I would describe him as a two-guard in a big man's body because he can shoot."
What about some of the newcomers?
"All of our newcomers are good. They are coming in and picking it up quick. When we came in last year we made mistakes, but they are making less mistakes because they had the summer to work out and catch on. I had to miss my summer (before my freshman season)."
Has Dee Bost surprised you?
"He has been very surprising. When I first saw him he was smaller than I thought he was going to be. I thought to myself, 'is this our point guard.' But as I watched him play, I saw that he was actually pretty good. He can pass the ball, he can shoot, he can create, he has quickness and toughness, he plays defense ... he can do everything."
Jarvis Varnado's wingspan is 7-4. What is your wingspan?
What does he lack?
"I would say conditioning. That's it."
How is your game stamina compared to last year?
"My stamina is holding up a lot better than last year, a lot better."
What did you learn last year that you are using this year?
"To slow down. I have to be patient. I tried to do things at a fast pace last year."
"Yes sir, I can."
Are there other things you can do?
"He basically described it all - defense, quickness, toughness, pass, scoring ... I can give the big men the ball, be a leader."
You did that in high school and prep school, but this is the SEC. How will you be able to do that against guys who will be bigger, faster and more experienced than you are?
"A lot of people have told me this is the SEC, one of the best conferences in the nation. I hear that a lot, but we'll see how I do after I get my first few games under my belt. But I feel like I can do the same thing in any conference. That's just me."
Is one of your attributes your confidence?
"Yes sir. You have to be confidence. If you aren't confident, you don't have anything. You have to be confident in everything that you do. That's the only way you can continue to get better."
What would you say is the best part of your game?
"I would say being aggressive in my defense."
Why defense? When I think of young basketball players, I think they would prefer to score.
"When I first started playing for my AAU coach, he used to tell me if you don't have defense then you aren't going anywhere. So, he put it in my mind that defense will get you anywhere. I started loving it then. And I love stealing the ball."
What has been the most difficult thing for you in practice?
"I would say trying to learn while going at a fast pace. It's so fast and I'm trying to learn this and that. And there's something new every day. That's tough."
Are you picking things up despite that?
"Oh yes sir, I'm catching on and getting better every day, but there is always something else coming at you every day."
Is there just one thing that you understand, but just haven't gotten it yet?
"Probably zone defense because I really don't like zone defense. It makes me lazy. I like man."
What has been the most exciting thing you've seen about this team since you've been here?
"How well our big men can move. Our big men get up and down the floor real well."
Do you include Elgin Bailey in that group?
"Oh, of course. He's one of the fastest big men that we have."
Did that surprise you how well he moves?
"At first it did. I thought he was slow and a half court big man, but he's fast for his size."
What are your thoughts about Kodi Augustus?
"He's a player. If he puts his mind to it and works hard, I believe he can get to the NBA. He's got the body. He's a forward who can play the wing, dribble, shoot. He's got all the skills in the world as a big man. He can, basically, do anything that a guard can do. I just love his game."
"It has been more, actually. A lot of people say that coaches change once you get to college. But the coaches have still been the same. Of course, on the court they are tougher and harder, but everybody have been the same. I got a good welcome from the rest of the players, good welcome from everybody on the campus. I love it and I'm glad I made the decision to come here."
Have the coaches identified your role on this year's team?
"They want me to be that guy who brings a lot of versatility to the table. I'll be playing the four man for the team, but I'm going a lot as far as playing in the post. They want me to be a rebounder and a guy who helps Jarvis score in the paint, but also shoot the three and do things that I'm stronger at. And even though I'm a freshman, I want to try to be a leader, a leader by example."
Would you say you are a combination of a Elgin Bailey and a Kodi Augustus?
"Yes sir, I would say I'm like a combination of those two because Kodi can shoot the three and I can shoot it well from the outside. And Elgin is very powerful under the basket and I'm getting to where I'm starting to get that mean mentality in me when I'm down there."
What has been the most difficult thing that you've had to adjust to in college compared to high school?
"Well, maybe, one of three things. The conditioning is a lot different. Coach Akins and the weight lifting program is a lot different. And the defensive aspect that Coach Stansbury brings is a lot different. He really loves for you to play defense. That's who he is. And probably the last thing is being able to pick things up on the fly. In high school you had more time to go over things, but we only get two weeks of practice before our first exhibition game. So, everything is kind of being thrown at you, and it's up to you to grasp it. If not, you will be left behind."
What has been the easiest thing to handle?
"The easiest thing? There hasn't been any easy. Getting up for class is hard after having two-a-days and conditioning. I don't know what is easy. Maybe class is probably the easiest thing. But as for basketball, nothing is easy. And you don't expect it to be easy. The games will be easy, but the practices will be hard."
What are you looking forward to the most this year?
"I'm looking forward to playing. And looking forward to being able to see my parents see me play because I know they are very proud. My grandmother graduated from Mississippi State, my dad graduated from here. So, it's just the pride of being out there and playing. And I love basketball. That's what I've always wanted to do all my life, playing here at Mississippi State and have a chance to play in the SEC. I thank God for that."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.