Jarvis Varnado Talks Blocking Shots

Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado has a very good chance to go down in history as the greatest shot blocker in NCAA history. Jarvis talks about when he first became a shot blocker, the impact it has on the game and his thoughts about the possibility of setting the NCAA career record in shot blocks.

When did you first start blocking shots?
"I think 90% of America's basketball players wants to score first. That was my mentality growing up, too. But when I was in junior high I was the tallest player on the team, so my coaches told me to work on rebounding and defending. And that's what I tried to do. And I accomplished that."

When your coach told you to work on defense and rebounding were you a little upset?
"At first I was but you have to take coaching and know your role."

When did you realize that you could impact a game with your shot blocking?
"I've been doing this for a while. In high school I blocked a lot of shots. When I came on the scene everybody was talking about me blocking shots. But I had been doing this since high school, so it wasn't new to me."

Do you get as much satisfaction out of block as you do a dunk?
"Oh yeah. It just ignites us and gives us energy to go."

Talk about the impact your blocking shots has on the team.
"Coach (Stansbury) always preaches defense first. And that starts our offensive break when I block the shot and I keep it inbounds. And it gives the crowd a boost, too, as well as the team."

Has there been a block that stood out more than any of the others?
"All of them are the same for me. I don't get too high or too low on any block. They are all the same."

Can you get hot as a shot blocker just like you can as a shooter?
"When I block a lot of shots I am usually in a zone. You can't go for every shot. You just have to have good timing and instinct."

How much do you watch film of players to see how much a guy might head fake, what does a guy do to try to get you off your feet?
"I know that most guys are going to head fake me, trying to get me off my feet. So, I don't usually bite on the first two fakes. They are going to fake two times, then go up with their shot. So, I try to be the second guy off the floor."

When you say the second guy off the floor, is that something your coach taught you or is that something you already knew?
"I just knew it. Most guys, when they try to block a shot, try to be the first guy off the floor but with my timing, my good leaping ability and my quickness I can jump off the floor as the second guy."

How much does your wingspan help you?
"My wingspan helps me out a lot. Having a 7-4 wingspan I can be the second guy off the floor and still be able to block the shot."

How did you have to adjust your shot block the last year or so since teams were trying to foul you out and drive the ball into your chest?
"I just couldn't go for a lot of shot fakes. I have to know when to go for a block and playing good position defense."

Due to your ability to impact a game with your defense and your block shot ability did you feel slighted that you weren't even mentioned as a candidate for player of the year honors?
"I don't get to caught up in that. I just try to go out and do what I do and that is to have an affect on the defensive end and try to help win games."

You are on the verge of having a chance to set the NCAA record for block shots during a career. How do you feel about that?
"That is an extremely great honor. But that is not a goal that I'm just focusing on right now. I think we have a good team and we are just trying to win games this year."

Did you know who (former NBA defensive star) Bill Russell was before you started college? If so, how did you hear about him?
"Yeah, I did. I love watching old film of basketball, so I turned on ESPN Classics and some of his games would be on and I would watch it. He was a great player. And he was a tremendously smart defensive player."

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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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