Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado worked out for the Washington Wizards on Memorial Day. Below is a break down of his Chicago Pre-Draft camp measurements and his Wizards post-workout interview.
Jarvis Varnado is a very soft spoken guy. In fact, I’d call him downright shy … at least in terms of his interview demeanor. He’s the anti-Omar Samhan.
Varnado is an especially intriguing prospect to me. Being a Mississippi State alum and someone who worked with the men’s basketball team while there (I left MSU in 2003, Varnado started his four years as a Bulldog in 2006), I’ve followed his career very closely.
Varnado, nicknamed “SWAT”, is most known for his defensive presence. He finished his career with 564 blocked shots, the most in NCAA history, averaging four blocks per game over career. He has natural instinct, usually not leaving his feet to gamble on pump fakes, but also has “quick hops” in his ability to recover on second and third jumps. And as many shots as he blocked, he changed and intimidated a ton more, and often against players who thought they could out-smart him by going into his body. He is an intelligent, disciplined defensive player.
Offense, however, is a glaring weakness for Varnado. I will say that he improved vastly while at Mississippi State, but he started with little to nothing on the offensive end and still has a very long way to go before ever being a halfway decent threat at the NBA level.
Another concern is his body. In Chicago he measured 6-8.25 without shoes and 6-10 in shoes. He has wingspan of 7-3.5 with a standing reach of 9-1.5 . But height/length is not necessarily the issue. It’s how much weight he carries on that frame. He reportedly arrived at Mississippi State weighing a mere 195 pounds. Most recently, the Mississippi State website listed him at 230. In Chicago, he weighed in at 210 … that sounds extremely frail in NBA terms.
It’s also worth mentioning his strength. Varnado was only able to bench press 185 pounds three times in Chicago. That ranked third to last among 43 players who were measured on the bench. UTEP’s Derrick Caracter benched 185 lbs. 22 times, second most to Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody with 23. VCU’s Larry Saunders, skinny in his own right as he carries 222 pounds on his 6-10.5 height in shoes, was able to bench the weight seven times. Of course, Caron Butler was only able to get two reps on the bench press in 2002, according to database at Draft Express.
Varnado’s lane agility time was 11.61 seconds, right on the average for the 45 players who did the drill. The lane agility drill involves the player starting on the baseline near one block, sprinting to the free-throw line, doing a defensive slide from elbow to elbow, back-peddling back to the baseline and finally doing a defensive slide back to the opposite block where the player started. John Wall had the best time with 10.84 seconds, Keith “Tiny” Gallon had the worst at 13.44 seconds.
The idea is to measure swiftness of foot. Varnado fared better than Caracter (12.78), Saunders (12.49), Kentucky’s Daniel Orton, and Georgetown’s Greg Monroe (12.10), but he came up short of Kansas’ Cole Aldrich (11.48) and Kentucky’s Demarcus Cousins (11.40). So, Jarvis is not wholly impressive in his agility, but Cousins certainly seems to be fairly quick on his feet, especially since he out-weighs Varnado by 82 pounds.
Varnado’s max vertical (32.5 inches), was better than a lot of other well-known big men in Chicago, but ranks just 8th among the 21 players who measured taller than 6-9 in shoes. And of course, far short of Wall’s impressive 39 inches, which only trails Terrico White’s 40 inches. By comparison, Varnado’s max vertical is equal to the pre-draft measurements of B.J. Mullens (2009), Lonny Baxter (2002), Darko Milicic (2003), David Lee (2005), and JaVale McGee (2008).
I want to be a big advocate for drafting Varnado, I really do. He’s college basketball’s all-time leader in blocks for a reason … and he played in the SEC, not against lesser talent from a mid-major conference. But factoring in his measurements, body and demeanor, there could be more talented potential available when the Wizards pick at 30 and 35.
I don’t want to get too caught up on Varnado’s quiet nature. I saw him play plenty of games where he expressed a ton of emotion and hustle. However, for him to really excel in the NBA, I almost feel he needs to be more of a go-getter, a fire-cracker. I could be wrong.
I think the ultimate factor could be that JaVale McGee, a skinny shot blocker who is taller and heavier with more upside, is already on the roster (McGee about two months older, by the way). Sure, Varnado might be nice to develop for seasons to come, but the Wizards have long been desperate for a big man who can throw his weight around in the paint and not another work-in-progress that will be contingent on the need to gain a lot of strength.