The repeat was not unexpected of course, as Varnado finished the regular season first in both the SEC and NCAA statistics for blocked shots. He is not far off his sophomore pace when he tied the league season record with 157 blocks in 34 games. He has 143 through 31 games this year, despite SEC opponents shying away from shooting within his formidable reach lately.
Speaking with media Monday, on speculation he would repeat, Varnado said it would be a "blessing" to score his second defensive Player of the Year award. "That's a good honor to have in the SEC," he said. But this time around Varnado received another honor from league coaches, with selection as a first-team All-SEC. As a sophomore he earned only Honorable Mention, since two teammates—guard Jamont Gordon and forward Charles Rhodes—were already first-teammers. The SEC picks eight players for the first and second teams.
So this year Varnado is recognized for more than just his considerable efforts in blocking shots (he was obviously chosen for the five-man All-SEC Defense team this year). "Well, my offense is coming along, it's gotten better this year," Varnado said. Varnado is 19th in SEC scoring as of this week at 13.0 points and fifth in field goal accuracy. He's also third in league rebounding for the season as a whole.
Coach Rick Stansbury says Varnado is showing a well-rounded game this third college season, both with improved endurance and just being smarter about such things as fouls. "And opponents get better at not shooting the ball around him as much. Last year it was kind of new, now I guarantee opponents talk about it. He's as good or better because he's stronger, more disciplined in staying on the floor. And we've asked more of him offensively this year."
With Varnado's selection, Mississippi State has had at least one player named first or second All-SEC by league coaches since the 2001-02 season; and a player named all-conference at some level in 19 of the last 20 seasons.
Also today the SEC released the All-Freshman team and as expected Bulldog guard Dee Bost was on the eight-man squad. A starter since his first college game, Bost just set the MSU record for freshman assists (135 to date) and is averaging 11.5 points with 3.5 rebounds. His 52 made-treys also rank with the best rookie years ever at MSU; in fact Bost's name will show in the top-tens of up to 13 categories.
Bost was a unanimous pick for All-Freshman, though he came up short to Ole Miss' Terrico White in the league Freshman of the Year voting. He is the seventh Bulldog voted All-Freshman since the SEC began this award in 1987, joining teammate guard Barry Stewart who was a 2007 selection.
Mississippi State practices at home today before departing for Tampa and the 2009 SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs will participate in media obligations Wednesday and prepare for their 2:15 Thursday first-round match with Georgia. Besides working to improve their post-season status, the Dogs will be playing for the eighth 20-win season of Stansbury's 11-year tenure with State.