Stansbury: "Going To Be More Expectations"

The NCAAs are just a few weeks done and already folk want to discuss next season with Rick Stansbury. That's just the price to be paid for running the SEC West's pace-setting program this decade, for whetting fan appetites for future successes...oh, and having just about every prime part of a good club officially returning for what should be a better year. Even a special one.

But if 2009-10 is to become what everyone—staff, players, fans, and yes media—project is possible, the Mississippi State head coach says his Bulldogs need to be at work already. "There's going to be a few more expectations, with expectations there's a lot more responsibilities that come with that and that'll be the key how we handle that this year," Stansbury said.

The coach, who just completed his 11th season in charge at State, talked Wednesday with local reporters on all sorts of MSU hoops topics. Beginning with queries about something that happened just prior to the press meeting and delayed it over a half-hour, as Stansbury met with center Jarvis Varnado and father Winston Varnado in the coach's office. This naturally led to the opening question of the following transcript, which includes updates on the incomplete schedule and a notice that the coach won't be easily available for interviews this summer. So enjoy this one.

Q: What is the latest on Jarvis Varnado? "Nothing new. We'll kind of wait and keep going through the process and make a decision later."

Q: How is Elgin Bailey progressing? "I think pretty good. He's in a walking in a boot now, he is getting some rehab. I saw his ankle today, looks don't mean anything but he's got some movement in it. Today's the first time I've seen it. It's probably a lot farther along than I thought it would be. It looks pretty good, whatever that means."

Q: Signing period started today, will you sign anyone? "We may try to sign one more if we can, sometime along the way."

Q: Any idea when? "Hey in the recruiting process you never know. When you get those papers in you've got them. We're not getting them today for sure. So we've got from now to May 10th, 15th, that helps you a lot."

Q: Last year you played four guards, now with the same personnel are you still planning that or will you approach it differently? "I haven't given it much thought right now. I think the thing we have, we have some versatility and some flexibility. That's the thing that going into next season we didn't have this year. Basically we had two guys back who had played, and everything else was relatively unknown. Totally unknown. This time of the year compared to this time last year there's not so many unknowns. I think it's very obvious going into it we've got some different pieces that can do some different things. And we have some different flexibility to play different people different ways, which is good, I couldn't have said that this time last year."

Q: You have Shaunessy Smith coming in, can you plug him in that lineup? "It's hard to just plug them in as freshmen. He is a young kid that we like his potential, I think the biggest thing with him is he has to get healthy, he's had the hip problem and that wrist problem. Those are things we've got to get him over. I think it's very obvious he has a lot of ability, he has some size and some strength and some abilities to do different things with. I think he's a very versatile player, can do a lot of different things."

Q: Not to jinx things, but will this be a quiet off-season? "There's never a quiet off-season is there? When has been the last spring I haven't dealt with the NBA stuff? Who was before Mario Austin's freshman year? So it has been a while, we're used to dealing with it. The biggest thing is we're not having to go into a spring having to sign four or five guys, which makes it a little easier. And we're not going into spring with a lot of unknowns about our team. We have a lot of known abilities with our team coming back, probably moreso than the last several years. That's good that you can kind of project and plan a little bit."

Q: But it's a good problem to have, players that can think of the NBA? "If you want to write that and say it's a good thing, go ahead! I guess, I'm going to let you make that decision on whether it's a good thing or not!"

Q: Talk about going into the off-season after playing in the post-season? "It's invaluable. And I think everybody lost sight of this with this team. Everybody talks about well, your team got hot. If you back up with this team, over halfway through SEC play we're playing for first place in this league. We're 6-2 and playing LSU for first place. So we were pretty good in the first half of it. I don't have to talk about the game we lost but that was a very difficult loss half-way through the season. Then you lose another double-overtime game over at Alabama. So our team was pretty good all the way through SEC play, we just had a stretch where we played some games on the road--it happens, given everybody's schedule.

"But for them to what they did towards the end, and it wasn't just beating Florida and Ole Miss, it was winning the four games in a row that was the difference-maker and made it really seem special. Any time you can win a championship in this league it's invaluable. And to do it with a young team, and a new team, makes it more special. Now it's very obvious next year there will be a little bit more expectations for this team. As I've said many times, I don't know any coach that doesn't like going into the season with expectations versus not having expectations. As coaches and players that's what you work for. So we'll have a few more expectations next year.

"We have a long way to go with this team, they have to do a lot of things to get better. But with a lot more expectations come a lot more responsibilities and a lot more accountability with them. So there's a lot of areas this team has to get better in. It's very obvious this team has to get stronger. We had one guy in that starting lineup over 200 pounds last year. We've got to find ways, so many of these young men's games will change with strength. I look at Dee Bost, what will strength do for him. A Ravern Johnson, what will strength do for him. Same way with Jarvis. Barry Stewart. So many of those guys, forget the experience factor, just strength will help those guys get a lot better."

Q: Is having a point guard coming back the most comforting part? "Well, it's comforting having a big guy too that has some abilities that you know our big guy has. But no question, point guard is a great place to start. And we've got a young guy there that isn't as young this year as he was last year. He's a sophomore and the experience he gained last year is invaluable, the amount of minutes he had. I think he'll only take up where he left off last year. But that's a good place to have some experience at, and a good player."

Q: Can you share at all what your conversation with Jarvis was about? "No. That's personal."

Q: Where is he at in the process? "The process is right where it is. We're still gathering information in the process."

Q: Has he gotten any feedback from the NBA yet? "Ahhh, we're still in the process of gathering information!"

Q: Can you update where Jacquiese Holcombe's situation is with a medical redshirt? "You can't apply for a medical redshirt until the end of his next year. So that will be next year. I see no reason why he shouldn't and couldn't. He played eight or nine games, the rule is now 30% (participation) and he didn't play 30% Plus it's very well documented he had surgery. So there's no reason why he won't get that back."

Q: Kodi Augustus made no secret he was wondering about his future towards the end of the year, why did he come back and what role do you envision for him? "Well, I think it's a combination of everybody coming back. I think it's very obvious his role changed for us down the stretch. And there's a reason why, I've said many a time he changed. Our conversations about coming back was making sure that we were all coming back going to work and do the right things. If you don't it's a no-win for either one of us. But it's obvious for him and for us, because we'd seen him change, that we felt good about the progress he's made mentally as a player. And sometimes there's not but one thing that will get your attention, one way or the other, and that's not playing. Because the one thing all players want is playing time. And to Kodi's credit he handled it the right way. It naturally wasn't the way he wanted it, but it made him better and it's obvious he got better for us. And people forget Kodi started the first nine games. Here's what funny, I don't remember any of you guys asking me in the next 15, 20 games why wasn't he playing? It was only those last five or six. Well, there's a reason he got better. And give Kodi credit for it."

Q: What do you know of the schedule? "We're down to two or three games. I can't give them to you, I know we're playing DePaul down there in the SEC-Big East shootout in Tampa. We have return games to Houston, to San Diego, to Western Kentucky. St. Bonny is here. I can't remember them all right now but we're still trying to get a couple more good games on our schedule. We're playing in the South Padre tournament (note, Thanksgiving weekend), two games here and two games in South Padre. We'll have the Old Dominion-Richmond winner vs. Missouri probably in the other game. Four to play one and two of them are at home. We'll play the first two games here whoever those two games are, and if we beat the Richmond or Old Dominion you'll probably Missouri in the other winner's bracket. (The two home games) They'll furnish the teams, and they may have already assigned them here, seems like Texas Pan-American or somebody was already assigned. It shouldn't drag on where you guys aren't going to worry about calling me in August like you do! Hopefully it would be done in the next month, and for us to get that schedule in the next month would be big-time. Now you won't get that SEC schedule until August probably."

Q: Next year you have a good collection of juniors and seniors coming back? "We will have some experience. We'll have two seniors, five juniors. That'll be the most experience we've had consistently for several years. We've been basically it seems a freshman-sophomore team for the last four years really, it just seems it's been a whole run of those guys."

Q: The scholarship you have, what are you looking for? "We'll try to find somebody that's got some kind of size about him, got a little meat on his bones."

Q: Have you met with all the players to know all of them are coming back? "Uh-uh."

Q: You don't know or is that not a question? "Not a question. Have you talked to them?! Not all of them, yet, no. I don't have any concerns anybody is leaving. Should I have? I have no concerns. Everybody will be back that I want back, put it that way! I'll say that statement every year."

Q: What are the plans for their summers? "There will be some guys working camps now. I don't know all the answers to all of those, we have some guys now in the process of setting that up. A couple of guys going to China, a couple of guys going to Turkey. Hopefully if Jarvis' situation fits right he'll be in the World (University) Games which will be something huge for him. It's huge in general to have that opportunity and for him to experience that. A couple of weeks in Colorado Springs then to go play the World Games, I forget where at but to play against the best will be a great experience. There will be several guys taking those foreign trips, three or four in May. And we're still in the process of getting some guys to work camps."

Q: How do you see the SEC next year? "Oh, guys, come on now! You know whatever I would say would just be one guy's opinion and it's way too far to speculate whose got what. You know, everybody in this league is returning everybody basically, y'all know that.This league is not going to be down for very long, I think you can look around the league. I mean, who is not going to be better in the East? And in the West gonna be a lot of teams better. Ole Miss is going to be very good, Arkansas has got everybody back, Alabama has got everybody back. I guess LSU and Auburn lost some people versus the year before where everybody lost players. So everybody is going to be strong, better in the West. In the East I don't know anybody that lost anybody, again I haven't thought about it much. But Florida has everybody back, Kentucky has everybody back, Tennessee everybody back, Vanderbilt everybody back. Georgia lost two wing guards. So the league is going to be better."

Q: All last season you talked of changing your basic approach for the personnel you had. While you want to get back to defense and rebounding, does it help to have played another way? "I think we know this team number one can play a little different than conventional. Hopefully they'll get a little better at not being conventional, getting stronger, ability to defend and rebound better than they were. But at the same time I think we know we're able to play bigger and stronger, too. So I think we have some versatility and some flexibility going into next season. That's one thing we learned.

"Plus we learned that we've got some guys that have got to get better in some areas. Absolutely we've got to get stronger, we've got to get tougher, we've got to become a better defensive and rebounding team. That's the area I never was pleased or satisfied with all year for us being as good as we could be; we just found a way to make it work. And I do think the last three or four weeks of the season defending and rebounding. That helped us down the stretch some."

Q: Do you think that team handled itself well despite being inexperienced? "I've never had any problems with this team. I've got a great group of young men, they're good people. If they weren't we couldn't have done what we did being a young team. It's never been about work ethic. But there is no substitute for experience you gain is invaluable. They've experienced what they experienced last year and become a year older, now they understand more, they understand what it takes more. We can talk and talk and talk and some of it sinks in and some of it doesn't. But now you look behind you and it's 20-20 vision. We've got some guys now who are seniors and juniors and it's even clearer for them.

"This group it's never been about work ethic, our kids worked hard last year in practice and off-season. Just what we were is what we were, I couldn't change it. When I've got one guy (starting) over 200 pounds I can't change what we were. We weren't the toughest team and we weren't the most physical team. We found ways to do some things differently that hid some of those things. Well, we don't need to try to hide those things much next year. We need to be able to go into not hiding them, and hopefully we can do all those other things better and do those things we tried to hide this year better. And I see no reason why we can't. Again there's no substitute for that experience they just gained. But there's going to be a few more expectations, with expectations there's a lot more responsibilities that come with that and that'll be the key how we handle that this year."

Q: After back to back West championships you lost that, but you came back to win the SEC Tournament. "Championships are always high on the list. We try to do the same thing every year. Our goals every year is to compete for a championship in this league. We don't set a lot of individual goals, we don't set a lot of team goals except some defending and rebounding, those kind. But one goal is consistent for us: compete for a championship. And I say this, every year championships are won March-to-October. Not from October-to-March. October-to-March is a team sport, March-to-October is an individual sport. You can get in the gym and I tell my guys don't come to me in November and want to shoot that basketball when you haven't shot it from March to October. You can be as selfish as you want this time of year, you can shoot it 5,000 times a day. This is the time of year you have to go to work. And for the most part I've got some guys that have some work ethic about them that I like on this team."

Q: What do you think about John Calipari being in the league now? "It's great for our league, any time you can bring a guy into the league with his resume it only makes our league better. He's going to bring more publicity to the league, as if it didn't enough already, and probably will get Kentucky back to being one of the best teams in the country as it always has been. They've been down a little bit the last year I guess but whoever has been the coach there has been pretty good. So I think it helps our league."

Q: When do you expect the guys here for summer to be on campus? "Most of them in June and July, they'll go home for the month of May. But for the most part all June and July those that work camps and are around will be here."

"Last chance boys, don't be calling me! Don't call and leave messages! When is media day? See y'all in October!"

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