Bost Getting Right To The Point

For a fellow who didn't assume the mantle, much less mentality, of point guard until he reported to a college campus, Dee Bost seems to be quite comfortable in his projected role as Mississippi State's roundball quarterback of the future. As in, immediate future.

"It really excites me," Bost said of such projections, and expectations. "I know I've got a long way to go, but I love that Coach has the confidence in me to think that. Every day he tells me that it just makes me work harder, to know that I can be one of the best ever to come here."

Quite a high goal to shoot at, especially considering the 6-2 freshman has far more experience shooting a basketball than distributing it. And Coach Rick Stansbury has only increased the expectations by declaring that Bost can be as good a point guard as any he's started at Mississippi State. With pre-season underway, though, Bost is making a prophet out of the coach.

"He has done nothing to disappoint anything I have said about him," Stansbury says.

Bost likely wouldn't have let his coach down had he been left at off-guard, the role he thrived in as a prepster and prep schooler. Still he's grabbing the opportunity to, and responsibility of, running the Bulldog offense from the very opening of his first college camp. After all, it's what Stansbury prepared Bost for all along.

"He told me I'd be a point when he signed me. I played it here and there in high school but not a whole game, but it's my best role to contribute in college." And a role that is wide-open on this Bulldog ball team. In fact if Jamont Gordon had not opted to turn professional the point-job wouldn't be available for another year. Bost, who spoke often with Stansbury before coming to campus in July, was kept updated on Gordon's situation. But he wasn't hoping the old Dog would leave early; just the opposite.

"Actually I wanted to play with him! I wanted me and him to both play so I could learn some stuff from him. But once he left, that just opened up a big hole for me to play."

If, that is, Bost can indeed fit himself into that hole. For all of Stansbury's glowing projections, it's still a fact: Bost has minimal experience running the point. Once he moved to Starkville, though, he tried to get a head-start on changing his hardcourt identity.

"I always was a shooting guard, up to now. But this past summer as I was playing with the guys I was thinking to myself ‘point guard, point guard'. Bringing the ball upcourt, getting them the ball. I've been changing, passing a lot and trying to take away from my scoring. And it's coming along real good."

"One of the main people that's been helping me is Barry Stewart. Since he's been here, he's helping lead me through it every day. I'm just learning from him. And Jarvis Varnado as a big man is telling me details here and there, what to do. So I'm learning."

There's not a lot of time for such learning of course. The Bulldogs held their first scrimmage-practices Tuesday evening, and will have a public intrasquad session this Saturday afternoon from 2:00-to-4:30. It's barely November when exhibition games begin and Stansbury has to settle on combinations and rotations. Which means his new point guards, Bost and classmate Twany Beckham, will do a lot of their learning on-the-job.

"My first couple of days it was kind of rough," Bost said. "But I'm progressing as we go along and it's becoming easy. It's getting better day by day." And the ‘rough' part isn't so much the plays as the pace. College practices are so much more physically and mentally demanding than anything he experienced, at least on the court. Off it, Bost's year at Hargrave Military disciplined him well for the regimen of a student-athlete.

Now it's simply a matter of getting up to both the physical and mental speed of SEC basketball. Bost has never had a problem getting up-and-down the court, of course. He says it's the progression of his new position, of taking everything step-by-step and executing within the system. It's quite a change from spotting, catching, and shooting.

"You're right, the point guard has to see everything. They've got to know every position on the court, not just when they get the ball, go score. They have to know everything that's going on." "As we practice Coach is showing me step-by-step. I mean it's going to be some difficulties but I'm learning. I feel real confident with Coach because he makes sure if I make a mistake he doesn't get mad, he lets me learn. He shows me every day how to get through this and get through that, handle the pressure, and do everything."

Having a couple of old hands like Stewart and Varnado helps, too, though naturally they give him cues from completely different vantage points. Besides, Bost notes, neither is what you'd call a big talker, preferring to do their leading by example. The new guy does have to show his elders due respect, too.

"I mean, I can't just tell them what to do," Bost said. "But I'm asking them questions at the same time. We conversate, go back and forth, I'm telling them where to go and what's open and when I drive what I'll do. So we can all get together."

"Some of them are probably thinking in the back of their mind he's a freshman, what does he know? But deep down inside they'll listen. Because I'm the point guard, I'm the floor leader, I've got to get the ball to them. It'll help in the long run."

And just to keep him further motivated, Bost doesn't have exclusive claim on the point. Stewart, when recovered from the summer ankle injury, can handle the ball as well as pump up the three-pointers. Then there's Beckham, three inches taller and much stouter than the 170 ("more like 163!" Stansbury says) pound Bost.

"He and I are competing every day," Bost says. "But basically I'm going at it as if it's my job, and I have to lose it. He's a player, I'm a player, so I go in and compete every day. I don't take days off, I can't take days off because I'm a freshman. So I've got to play hard every day."

Stansbury is already sold. "He keeps me believing in what I think he can be; he has a combination of everything. He is not a one-dimensional guard. He can do a little bit of everything. His play is very unselfish and that translates on the defensive end, because he has great ability to guard the ball. He can also really push it and distribute the basketball. Like all freshman, his adjustment will be strength, but his toughness makes up for that. I think he has a chance to be a terrific player."

As good as Gordon? That's a tall order indeed, and Bost knows he can't bring the physical presence of his predecessor to State's gameplan on either end. "But I've got just the same amount of heart as him, so size isn't going to mean nothing to me. If I have to, I'll drive to the hole, I'll get to the lane. I ain't scared to go down there, if it comes to that point I'll do it.

"I love scoring. But now in my mindset I'm developing as a true point guard, at the same time being aggressive. So when I drive my first instinct is to dish or get it to the big men; but at the same time I've got to read defenders and score. So I'm being both a scorer and a point guard, but I'm really trying to be a point guard now."

Bulldog fans can begin judging for themselves how Bost is making his transition, as well as other unknown aspects about the 2008-09 Bulldogs, this Saturday afternoon. The Hump doors open at 1:30 for the free scrimmage, which will be divided into games of varying lengths with different lineups.

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