2010 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Jarvis Varnado

Editor's Note, by rook6980: This is the 11th installment in a series of regular postings on Draft Prospects.  This series will take a look at the top draft prospects for the 2010 NBA Draft in June. The plan is to have one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft. My DVR is crammed full of College games, and I'm watching and writing as fast as I can (between Wizards games).

Jarvis Varnado

22 years old
6'9"; 230 lbs.
Mississippi St., Senior

I'm going to deviate a little bit from the first round guys to profile a player that could be available in the early second round, right when the Wizards pick. Truthfully, I didn't see any of his games live, and only started looking at him seriously when I found an incredible video on YouTube. I wasn't even looking for basketball videos, but instead I was looking for a music video of Thunderstruck by AC/DC (one of my all-time favorite songs) - and found this video of Jarvis Varnado, a senior center from Mississippi State.

He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year three years running (2008, 2009, 2010). He's the 2010 National Association of Basketball Coaches Defensive Player of the Year. He shattered the SEC All-Time Single Season Blocked Shots record (157) held by Shaquille O’Neal, and twice blocked 170 shots in a season. He is the NCAA All-Time Career leader in Blocked Shots (564). He's also the only college player in history to achieve the 1,000/1,000/500 milestone (points/rebounds/blocks). In short, he is quite simply the best shot-blocker to ever play college basketball.

 

After the jump, watch the video and be prepared to be impressed.

 

Varnado has average size for a post player, standing 6'9" and weighing 230 pounds, but he does have a 7'4" wingspan. He's an elite athlete, seemingly possessing his own personal trampoline. He's an unbelievable pogo-stick jumper, able to get off the ground almost instantly with his second jump, and third jump, and ... well, you get the point. He's got a high motor, giving maximum effort on every play. He is very fast up and down the floor and has worked hard to improve his strength. He started out as a 195 pound freshman, and has added 35 pounds of muscle in four years at Mississippi State. He needs to continue to get stronger and add bulk.

In the games I watched against Kentucky, Varnado held his own against Demarcus Cousins. In the first game, Cousins had the upper hand with 19 points and 14 rebounds while Varnado had 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. But Varnado got even in the second game, as he scored 18 points with nine rebounds and five blocks, while Cousins could only muster 10 points and 10 rebounds. Both games were close, hard fought contests, with Kentucky winning both.

Varnado had another impressive game against Vanderbilt's 7-foot center Andrew Ogilvy when he posted 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots. Perhaps his most impressive game came against Michael Washington and the Arkansas Razorbacks. He had a triple-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks.

Varnado doesn't project out to be much more than a garbage man on offense in the NBA (Ben Wallace? Chris Andersen?). He's still very raw and needs to work on his low post moves. He has a nice right-handed hook shot, out to about six or eight feet, and can hit short jump shots around the rim and out to about 10 feet at a good, efficient rate. He has improved his scoring every year in college, all while becoming a more efficient offensive player (60% TS%). Other than a rudimentary drop step and his baby hook shot, he lacks any true go-to post moves, scoring most of his points in transition, on the offensive glass or by catching passes at or around the block. He can finish at the rim and has good touch around the basket, but he needs to work on his left hand. One area that Varnado excels is in the pick-and-roll. He sets great screens and he has great hands and can catch the ball in traffic when he cuts to the basket.

As for his jump shot - well, it's pretty much non-existant. He has an unusual stroke with some extraneous movement and a low release point. He does have a good follow through, and his mechanics are consistent, but he just doesn't shoot many jumpers. His free throw percentage is poor to middling (61%), but he's improved it each year at Miss St., so there is at least some hope that he can continue to work on his mechanics and develop a mid-range game.

Where Varnado really shines is on defense. This year, he averaged an absurd 6.0 blocks per-40 minutes. What makes him such a spectacular shot blocker is his incredible timing. Sure, he's got the long arms, and the whole "personal trampoline" thing going for him, but his timing is impecable. He seems to know exactly when the opponent will actually shoot the ball, and when he's faking. He blocks a lot of shots by simply standing flat footed and extending his arms.

Two things I loved about watching him play:

 

  • He alters at least as many shots as he blocks. 
  • He very rarely blocks the ball out-of-bounds, instead keeping it in play so there's a chance his team can recover the ball.

 

I've never seen anyone block shots like him before. Most players simply swat at the ball, but Varnado seems to try to control the block, to aim his block inbounds. Frequently, he'll block the shot towards a teammate, igniting the fast break. I've even seen him come down with the block, cradled in the crook of his wrist and hand. Most players block shots with a fury - Varnado blocks shots with a purpose. 

As for the rest of Varnado's defense, he's willing to battle and throw his body around inside, and he holds his own there, but as with his offensive game, his defense would be even better if he added some more strength and bulk. Because of his lanky build, he sometimes has trouble defending big post players; but he's still very difficult to shoot over. He's pretty good on pick-and-roll defense, able to hedge on the guard and still get back to his man. But he's not so good if he's switched off on the perimeter; lacking the quickness to stay in front of most perimeter players, though he sometimes still has the length and athleticism to recover and block the shot from behind or the side.

Rebounding is another strength for Varnado. He has steadily improved his rebounding each year, to where he is now one of the better rebounding power forwards in College, averaging almost 13 rebounds per 40 minutes. The same physical tools that make him such a good shot blocker also help with his rebounding. He's got a nose for the basketball, knowing where it will come off the rim, and he goes up with tenacity. And of course, his second jump ability comes in handy here as well. He doesn't always block out, or display great fundamentals (two hands, keep the ball high) - which he'll have to do at the next level.


STRENGTHS:

  • Huge wingspan
  • Explosive leaping ability
  • Great second jump ability (and third jump)
  • Runs the floor well (very fast)
  • Good quickness
  • Establishes good position in the post
  • Elite defender
  • Best shot-blocker in college basketball history
  • Great timing
  • Excellent rebounder
  • Efficient scorer
  • Rarely shoots a bad shot
  • Intangibles: Coach-able, energy level, smart, tough, strong work ethic

WEAKNESSES:

  • Needs to add strength and bulk
  • Has no left hand
  • Offensive game is a work in progress (very raw)
  • Needs a mid range jump shot
  • Perimeter defense

 

An elite defender. A once in a decade shot-blocker. Jarvis Varnado will find a home in the NBA, not because of anything he can or cannot do on the offensive end, but because he can rebound, he can bring energy, and he can completely change the game with his shot blocking abilities.

And, just because I love watching this guy block shots, here's some more Jarvis Varnado.

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Previous Draft Profiles:

John Wall PG 6-4 195 Fr Kentucky Undecided
Evan Turner SG 6-7
217 Jr. Ohio St Undecided
Wesley Johnson SF 6-7 205 Jr. Syracuse Undecided
Derrick Favors PF 6-9 246 Fr. Ga. Tech Undecided
DeMarcus Cousins C 6-11 280 Fr. Kentucky Undecided
Al-Farouq Aminu F 6-8 218 Soph. Wake Forest Declared for the NBA Draft; signed with an agent
Cole Aldrich C 6-11 245 Jr. Kansas Declared for the NBA Draft, will hire agent
Greg Monroe C 6-10 247 Soph. Georgetown Will stay in school
Patrick Patterson F 6-8 235 Jr. Kentucky Undecided
Ed Davis F 6-10 225 Soph. North Carolina Undecided
Hassan Whiteside -Upcoming
C
7-0
235
Fr.
Marshall
Declared for the NBA Draft; will hire agent
Xavier Henry
SG
6-6
220
Fr.
Kansas
Undecided
Damion James
SF
6-7
227
Sr.
Texas
Senior - Eligible for the Draft
Ekpe Udoh
PF/C
6-10
240
Jr.
Baylor
Undecided
Stanley Robinson
SF
6-8
220
Sr.
UConn
Senior - Eligible for the Draft
James Anderson
SG
6-6
195
Jr.
Oklahoma St.
Declared for draft, has not hired agent
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