An Exclusive Interview With Rick Stansbury

Gene's Page sat down with Mississippi State head basketball coach Rick Stansbury for an exclusive one-on-one interview. In part-2, Coach Stansbury talks about what he expects from this year's team.

Do you have an idea what kind of offense this year's team will run?
"I really don't because there are so many questions about some of our personnel, health-wise and Dee's situation. But there aren't going to be a lot of adjustments. We are going to get up and down the floor and try to score as quickly as we always have. We still have some guys who can shoot the basketball.

"There's no question, though, that we have a chance to be a team that will have a little more size on the floor than the last couple of years. That means the ball could go inside a little bit more often. I think we can be more efficient with (Renardo) Sidney and based on where Elgin (Bailey) is health-wise."

Is Sidney, potentially, the best big man, offensively, that you have ever had during your time at Mississippi State?
"There is a chance. But you have to understand that he will still be a freshman next year. Will he be as good as a freshman as he would be as a junior? Absolutely not. Mario Austin, as a freshman, was just ok, but by the time he became a junior he was quite an offensive threat. So, to say he will be the best, I'm not sure about that. But I'll say this, he has as much potential as any that we have ever had when it comes to scoring in different ways."

What are some of the ways that he can score?
"One of the strengths of his game is his knack to score. He can score with his back to the basket in the paint. I think he has an array of moves around the hole because he knows where that basket is. And he has the ability to step out and make shots. He has some things you can't teach. He has the ability to step out and put the ball on the floor. He has the ability to step out and pass the basketball. I think that is one of his greatest strengths, the ability to pass the basketball."

Where is he physically, based on what you have heard from strength coach Richard Akins?
"He will never be where you want him to be because of where he started, but he's making progress. And that's all you can ask. It's tough on the coaches during the summertime. We can't be around. We can't watch him lift weights. We can't even be in the weight room. We can't watch him play. We can't have individual workouts. Basically, all he has is the strength training class with Coach Akins. He's done everything that we have asked him to do and he's done very well. His body seems to be taking shape again.

"It will be the fall when he gets back in school and gets back into a regular routine where we can be on the floor with him and work him out and get him in condition. That's when you will really see a huge change. But we are pleased with where he is right now."

How close to 100% are the three guys who were out last year due to injuries - Elgin Bailey, Twany Beckham and Shaun Smith?
"I think Twany is pretty close to 100%. He had double hip surgery and has gotten totally released (by the doctors). Shaun had one hip surgery and hasn't been fully released yet, so he is probably close to 75% at best right now. The same thing can be said about Elgin. He doesn't get released until August for his knee surgery. I think his ankle is fine. But it will be a progression getting him back from ACL surgery. But, hopefully, if he is free to go in August and can go through conditioning and go through practice, by the time the season starts he will be ready to go."

With the loss of Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado from last year's team, you lost your leaders. Who will be the leaders of this year's team?
"Jarvis and Barry were different kind of leaders. They led by example. They weren't the most vocal kids in the world. I thought that late in the year Jarvis stepped up and started being more vocal. So, we'll miss those guys leading by example every day. They never had bad days in practice or bad drills. They were consistent. That is the most important thing, as a coach, that you look for.

"I think this year it will be a little different. It will give opportunities for some other people to step up and see if they can be leaders. It's very obvious that a guy who has some emotional leadership and some toughness about him is Elgin Bailey. Our team seemed to rally with him, even last year."

Can Renardo Sidney be a leader even as a redshirt freshman?
"You always want your best players to be your leaders if possible. If you can do that, then you have something as a team. Naturally everybody is going to respect his ability to play. But leaders aren't always the guys who lead you in scoring and rebounding. Leaders are guys who are going to do it right every day on and off the court with everything that they do."

Was former player Whit Hughes that kind of leader?
"Whit was a tough guy, an overachiever, an emotional guy who played with a lot of grit and toughness. We had very talented players around him and he was a great fit because he was very skilled and very tough."

Is Riley Benock similar to Whit?
"I don't think Riley is as emotional as Whit was. Riley is a silent guy who will give you everything that he has every day and every possession. He also brings a great mentality to the game. He is a guy who can see what will happen before it happens on the court. He has a very high basketball IQ. He's also a terrific passer. Defensively, Riley has gotten to the point where we are very comfortable with him guarding anybody. He anticipates well and he's gotten stronger. What he lacks in ability, he makes up for it with his ability to anticipate and react. You have to have that out there. He does the little things that don't always show up on the stats sheet, but they are the little things that help you win. Hopefully, with Barry (Stewart) not being here he will become a little more aggressive offensively. He can really shoot the basketball. The hardest thing to do, though, is to get him to shoot it."

Specifically, what did you see in each of your signees that you liked?
"Brian Bryant brings you a guy who can put the ball on the floor and get it to the rim. I don't think our team was great at that last year. I think he can really do it. He's also a high character guy. He's also a guy who will bring energy and leadership every day in practice. I also believe he has some versatility. I think he can play 1, 2 or 3. He's also athletic.

"Jalen Steele is a a great piece to the puzzle. He can really shoot the basketball. He also comes from a very good high school program. Where most freshmen are behind the eight ball when it comes to their strength level and understanding how to defend, he is coming in here at 195 pounds and coming from a high school program that stresses defense. He's well ahead of the curve defensively and physically than most freshmen. When you combine that with his ability to shoot the basketball, I think he is a great fit.

"Arnett Moultrie is a guy we recruited out of high school. We were the one school that recruited him harder than anybody. He committed to UTEP before visiting us. I liked his upside and he's blossomed into a heck of a player. He's a versatile player who does a little of everything. He's not a center, he's not a four guy. He's a guy who can play inside or outside. He has good skills for a big guy. He has to sit this year but he will give us immediate experience the following year."

Who do you expect to be your rebounders and your go-to defensive guys?
"Those are things that we have to figure out. I don't have the answers to those questions yet. We haven't been the best defensive and rebounding teams during the last two years. We were put together differently. We had a great defender in Jarvis Varnado. but because our team played small we weren't a big, physical team. We didn't rebound the basketball like we have over the years. So, we adjusted a little bit offensively and did some things differently to fit our personnel.

"I think it's very obvious (this year) that we can put a little more strength and size on the floor. Last year, our biggest guy was Kodi Augustus who was 220 pounds. And we played with Jarvis who was 210. This year, we can put Kodi out there at 220. We can put Sidney out there at 290 and Elgin out there at 270. We can put John Riek out there at 250. With those guys, we have some flexibility. We thought we had some last year going into the season because we thought that we had Elgin and Sidney but it turned out we had neither one."

Talk a little about John Riek. Will we see an improved John Riek this year?
"There is no question that John will be better. What happened to him last year wasn't fair to him, getting thrown into the season nine games into it. That meant he didn't get the normal practice time in the fall because we were just trying to get a body ready to back up Jarvis. And that was Wendell. So, (Wendell) had to get all the second team reps just to get ready. And the speed of the game and the language of the game was tough for John to adjust to. But there is no question that he has made some strides. The weight room this summer is going to improve him immensely."


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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