Miss. players await NBA draft

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mississippi hasn’t produced a first-round pick in the NBA Draft since 2004.

Ole Miss guard Terrico White and Mississippi State forward Jarvis Varnado have a shot at ending the five-year drought in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

White, who left Ole Miss after two years, is projected as a late first-round selection. Varnado is considered a solid second-round pick who could sneak into the first round.

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“My family and I decided it was best for me to stay in the Draft,” White said. “My expectations are to get drafted, come in and work hard.”

Al Jefferson of Prentiss High School was the last Magnolia State native to go in Round One — chosen five years ago by the Boston Celtics.

Chad Ford of ESPN.com believes the New Jersey Nets will consider White with its second first-round pick. NBAdraft.net thinks the Memphis Grizzlies will use one of their first-round choices on White.

White is an explosive shooting guard who can score anywhere on the court. He averaged 15 points a game as a sophomore, when Ole Miss reached the NIT semifinals.

The 6-foot-5 White would likely be a lottery selection if not for questions about his consistency.

“White is an elite athlete who, when he’s on, is one of the best guards in the country,” Ford recently wrote on ESPN.com. “The problem is, White has a tendency to disappear in games. If the Nets can get him to play with some consistency, he would be a steal.”

Varnado made a name for himself at MSU as one of the nation’s top defensive players, especially adept at blocking shots.

He averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds a game as a senior, and finished as the NCAA’s career leader in blocked shots.

“My strength is blocking shots, running the floor and rebounding,” Varnado said. “My offensive game is coming along. It’s going to be a work in progress and I’m willing to work on it.”

A lack of offense keeps Varnado from becoming a first-round pick and earning guaranteed millions. Second-round picks don’t receive guaranteed contracts.

NBAdraft.net has Varnado going to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the 45th overall selection.

“Varnado’s a guy we’ve looked at his entire career at Mississippi State,” Milwaukee Director of Scouting Billy McKinley said. “He’s a very good shot blocker, a good athlete and a little raw offensively.”

The 6-foot-9 Varnado has ignored the mock drafts, focusing on improving his stock and preparing for the NBA. He’s worked out for 10 teams, including Milwaukee and Boston.

“It’s hard to tell,” Varnado said. “I try not to worry about that. I let my agent take care of that.”