Return of Dudley and Austin dominates call

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
July 19, 2002
The big subject matter at Thursday's teleconference of Southeastern Conference head basketball coaches was the return of two big men.
Both Alabama post player Erwin Dudley and Mississippi State's Mario Austin decided to forgo being drafted in June's NBA Draft and return back to their respective schools. The decisions brought joy to Tuscaloosa and Starkville and groans for the rest of the league.
Both Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried and Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury were both upbeat about next season's prospects.
The return of the 6-foot-10 Austin who averaged 16.1 points per game for the Bulldogs certainly answers a lot of questions. Austin could've been a mid-first round pick in the draft but decided to go back to the Bulldogs for his junior season.
Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament title behind Austin and finished with a school record 27 wins. They advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Here's a breakdown on how Gottfried, Barnes and Stansbury assess their teams heading into the fall.
Alabama
The Crimson Tide lost swingman Rod Grizzard to the NBA draft when he was picked in the second round. He leaves the Tide with a hole. It could've been worse, Dudley could've left, too.
Gottfried's concern is his wings.
Having Dudley back, though, makes the Tide the frontrunners in the West.
Ole Miss
Rod Barnes says the SEC West is going to be quite a battle.
Ole Miss went 20-12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament before being put out by UCLA. Still, a consecutive trip to the NCAAs means the Rebel program is heading in the right direction.
Ole Miss will return four starters including a standout tandem of guard David Sanders and forward Justin Reed.
Derrick Allen and Eric Harper also return. Barnes liked how Allen looked this summer.
The biggest hole the Rebels face is the loss of point guard Jason Harrison.
Mississippi State
The biggest hole to fill for the Bulldogs will be replacing Marckell Patterson who averaged 12.3 points a game to rank second behind Austin and Michael Gholar.
The backcourt, though, looks strong as point guard Derrick Zimmerman and two-guard Timmy Bowers return.
But again, having Austin back makes all the difference.
The Bulldogs have added 6-foot-8 Brandon Vincent to the post.
About the biggest concern for Stansbury will the SEC West itself.

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