Stansbury Plays Waiting Game In State Summer

There were plenty of questions crammed into Rick Stansbury's short stint on the SEC basketball teleconference. Answers? Well, the Mississippi State coach would probably welcome some summertime help with several of those himself. "There's some question marks where we're at and what we have right now."

Question marks which only time and process will answer over the coming months. Or at least that is how Stansbury is approaching what has become an unusually tense summer, even by Bulldog basketball standards. Players leaving, by choice or not; players returning, perhaps; players getting back to full-strength, hopefully; a long-serving aide taking another job on short notice; and a schedule that isn't close to completion.

"Good thing Stansbury seems able to maintain his standard it-all-works-out attitude toward the twists and turns here in 2010. "A lot of new pieces and new parts, we have to get them put together the right way," he said. "But right now it's a lot of questions."

Interestingly, there is one critical question nobody need ask. That is, the ability of the tentative 2010-11 Mississippi State team to compete. This prospective roster might not list a college All-American…but it has a prep All-American who finally gets his chance to play SEC ball, albeit after missing much of the pre-conference schedule. There might not be an acknowledged defensive ace in the backcourt…but there are more bodies to rotate for situations, and no lack of perimeter scorers. On paper, Stansbury's 13th Bulldog roster is entirely sound.

In reality? "If we get everybody healthy we'll be OK," Stansbury said.

He should have added ‘get everybody eligible' also. Or especially. Because as much as the coach hopes backups such as center Elgin Bailey and guards Twanny Beckham and Shaun Smith are full-health for fall, the coming campaign will hinge much more on the possible return of veteran point guard Dee Bost; and the ultimate activation of sophomore center/forward Renardo Sidney.

Bost, who declared for early-entry in this year's NBA draft and did not withdraw by the deadline, is requesting the NCAA restore his college eligibility. He lost it under the revised-for-2010 policy which moved the withdrawal date forward a month and limited the chances for underclassmen to ‘test the waters' in permissible pro tryout functions. Despite not being able to attend the recognized events Bost let the deadline pass without action; teammate and off-guard Ravern Johnson declared for the draft the same time as Bost but did withdraw by the deadline. Both players had been instructed on the schedule.

So Bost is having to put in a new sort of eligibility request. He is enrolled at State and attending summer school, and Stansbury is apparently expecting a favorable outcome of some sort. But, he added, "I have zero control. I really don't know much, it's kind of in a stage yet (to have) everything together. As far as I know it goes to an appeal committee. It's a first-time rule so we hope there's some lenience with it." In the form of restored eligibility after serving a number of games under suspension. That is a compromise State could accept given the opportunity to regain the services of a record-setting point guard for his junior season.

"So we'll have to wait and see," said Stansbury.

Sidney has already done more waiting-and-seeing than the prep superstar ever expected after signing with Mississippi State in spring 2009. His amateurism and eligibility cases took the biggest part of a whole year to resolve, with the NCAA finally ruling that the Mississippi native by-way-of Los Angeles prospect would be penalized a time-served freshman season and an additional 30% of games his sophomore season. Based on projections that State will play up to 31 scheduled games this year, counting two out-of-48-states trips, this would be nine or ten games depending on if the 9.3 figure is rounded-up as the NCAA does other figuring.

State is still putting together much of the non-conference slate, with available personnel part of the pre-SEC thinking. "Particularly trying to survive the first nine games without Sidney," Stansbury said today. Which implies a careful calculation of just how stout a schedule to attempt. There is even speculation that State will take a different tack with exhibition games, moving one of these typical pre-schedule contests to a December date…conveniently prior to Sidney's activation as a way to break him in better.

But Sidney's suspension and Bost's potential return aren't the only pre-conference considerations (the SEC has not finalized the conference slate as of yet either). "Good players are pretty easy to integrate into what you're doing," Stansbury said. "But there are a lot of new parts." And there's question marks with us; Twanny's healthy and we feel good but that's new; where is Elgin at early with us, Shaun Smith. Then the two new guys." As in junior college guard Brian Bryant and prep guard Jalen Steele, both currently on campus also.

However, Stansbury does know of three familiar faces who won't be on the Bulldog bench this winter. Two-year backup forward Romero Osby left the team in spring and has transferred to Oklahoma. Now add veteran ‘utility' man Phil Turner to the annual exodus list. Which, in fact, there were many reasons to expect all along. Having finished four years at State, three as a varsity player, Turner had been openly uncertain whether he meant to return for a fifth year in school; which because he is 12 hours from graduation would require he enroll in graduate school to still be a full-time student and eligible to play in the spring semester.

He was not enrolled for first semester summer school, though this is not too unusual. But Turner had also been putting out feelers for overseas opportunities to play professionally, without violating any eligibility rules. He and the coaching staff had not communicated directly for a while and with the July 1 deadline for renewing athletic scholarships Stansbury made the decision for everyone involved. He sent Turner a letter saying his grant was not being renewed.

Stansbury did not on-record answer calls for explanations, issuing a Saturday statement. "This past season Phil had indicated to the basketball staff, our compliance office and others he didn't plan on coming back for a fifth year. He chose not to enroll in summer school and didn't attend our year-end meetings which forced us to make other plans." This morning the coach would not expound further.

"I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of that. I've made a statement, we'll move on. There's two sides, everybody has said something. So I'm ready to move on with it." Turner's effective dismissal does open up a scholarship slot in case Bost is allowed to return, obviously. There had been an open grant until mid-June when forward Arnett Moultrie of Texas-El Paso chose to transfer to Mississippi State. He'll have to sit out the coming season on scholarship.

If the scholarship roster looks to be full again, Stansbury is down a coach as longtime aide Robert Kirby has secured an assistant post at Georgetown. "We have not done anything yet," said Stansbury of finding a replacement. "Kirb left last week and we just finished up camp." The head coach doesn't foresee any impacts to ongoing recruiting though, with familiar aides Phil Cunningham and Marcus Grant assuming larger shares of these duties. "We'll find ways to move on," is all Stansbury said about filling the staff-gap.

And, based on projected personal, probably move on back to the sort of ball team State was pre-Swat. That is, with record-setting center Jarvis Varnado now headed to professional ball, Stansbury looks for a return to the style of squads that weren't built around blocking shots. And even with Johnson back, and possibly Bost now, the coach also figures the 2010-11 team might not have to rely on three-point shooting quite as much. Maybe.

"It's very obvious you lose a couple of impact guys like Jarvis and Barry (Stewart). We'll have to do it differently than the way we've done it, blocking shots. We won't have anybody like that so we'll have to make adjustments how we defend in the perimeter and post." As for offense, "I think we've been up among one or two in the league pretty consistently the last couple of years. I think we could be a little different. We've got some guys that can make it so we're still going to shoot it with freedom. But with the inside presence (we can) attack on the block a little more."

Then again, there are many months left before Stansbury has to pick a lineup, much less a gameplan. So he'll stay patient and await some more answers to this summer's questions.

Gene's Page Top Stories