Mississippi State Basketball: John Riek (Still) Waiting to Contribute
Twenty-seven seconds. About the time it takes to beat the first boss in "Mega Man X" on Sega Genesis. Or just enough time to go viral.
To really put into perspective how much freshman center John Riek saw the floor in Mississippi State's 80-69 victory over Wright State on Wednesday, consider this: had you had changed the channel to catch the latest Lost trailer, by the time you switched back you would have missed Riek's much-ballyhooed debut, following a nine-game suspension.
This was supposed to be it. One half of the freshman frontcourt duo that was supposed help the Bulldogs reach the next level.
If you're coach Rick Stansbury, what better time to test drive your newest weapon than on the autobahn that is Wright State, which has no player taller than 6-foot-9 senior Ronnie Thomas.
Instead, Riek watched as his teammates launched 25 three-pointers, and only managed to outrebound the Raiders by six boards.
Stansbury rationalized Riek's benching by pointing out that exposing him to the Raiders smaller, quicker lineup was counterintuitive. Wright State hoisted 36 shots from three-point range, connecting on 14.
"There couldn't have been a worse team in America for him to try to step in (against)," Stansbury said, adding "I wasn't going to put him in that situation. I got him in just to let the crowd acknowledge him."
Hyperbole aside, to Stanbury's decision to sit Riek isn't exactly a vote of confidence in the young freshman.
Riek's sinewy 7-foot-2 frame, and a wingspan longer than the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge , make him a disruptive force in the paint against any team. He demonstrated this at the LeBron James Skills Academy, where he dominated top-flight competition from around the nation.
This leads me to believe that pairing Riek with the efficacious Jarvis Varnado would produce a precipitous drop in opponent's field goal percentage from a 15-foot radius.
Maybe I'm missing something here. After all, most of the hype around Riek is largely speculative. The only conclusion one can draw from watching his pre-draft film is that he can, in fact, dunk. Hard. Sometimes even in traffic.
Perhaps his conditioning is a concern. Or maybe Riek simply still isn't comfortable in Stansbury's system.
But, he's already at a disadvantage after being sidelined for nine games to start the season.
Inserting him into the lineup against an overmatched Wright State team to get a feel for the game speed, physicality of play in the paint and, most importantly, playing with his new teammates, would accelerate his development for when Bulldogs open conference play Jan. 9 at Ole Miss.
Then the question remains: why not play him now?
The Bulldogs' next opponent is a Houston team that only has one true center on its roster; Nick Mosley who, coincidentally, is listed at 6-foot-9.
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