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April 8, 2010

Varnado, Rack repeat as Mississippi's top players

JACKSON, Miss. - Two history-making collegiate careers ended in historical fashion on Thursday, as for the second time in as many years Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and Alexis Rack were named the recipients of the Howell Trophy and Gillom Trophy, respectively.

It was the first time since the inception of the awards, presented to the top male and female college basketball players in Mississippi, there were back-to-back winners.

The two MSU standouts received their trophies, named after Bailey Howell and Peggy Gillom, at a packed Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson.

"I can't say enough how much I appreciate this award," said the 6-foot-9 Varnado, a native of Brownsville, Tenn., who was a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden awards. "It's such an honor. And to win two times in a row is very special. It's the perfect ending to my career."

This past year as a senior, Varnado became the 31st player in Mississippi State history to score 1,000 points.

He led the Bulldogs in scoring (13.8) and was tops in the Southeastern Conference with 10.3 rebounds an outing en route to garnering All-SEC honors. He was also tabbed the league's defensive player of the year for the third-straight season, becoming the first player in SEC history to achieve that feat, and won the same honor numerous times on the national level.

For his career, Varnado finished 13th all-time with 1,403 points, while his 1,096 rebounds are second only to the 1,277 Bailey Howell grabbed from 1957-59.

Yet, he'll be remembered most for his shot blocking ability.

Against Alabama on Feb. 24 at Humphrey Coliseum, he became the NCAA's career leader, breaking the mark of 535 set by former Louisiana-Monroe standout Wojciech Myrda. He finished with 564 after swatting 170 this past season, which tied the SEC single-season record he set as a junior.

And in doing so, he became the first player in the history of college basketball to score 1,000 points, total 1,000 rebounds and block 500 shots.

Rack Leads MSU To First Sweet 16

During the 2009-10 season, Rack directed the Lady Bulldogs to their best finish in school history, making an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament after upending Ohio State in the second round, avenging last year's loss to the Buckeyes.

A native of Franklin, La., she averaged 17.5 points a game this past season, which propelled her to third all-time in scoring at Mississippi State with 1,756 career points. Rack had an SEC season best five 30-point games, including a 43-point performance against Maryland, also an SEC best this season.

She also proved to be lethal from 3-point range, setting an SEC single-season record with 108 3-pointers.

Rack finished her Mississippi State career as the all-time SEC career leader in 3-point field goals with 340 while ranking third at MSU in assists and fifth all-time in steals with 202. She was named a First-Team All-SEC selection for the second consecutive season and named a finalist for the State Farm All-America Team this season.

"It's a special feeling to win this again," said Rack, who earlier in the day was selected by the San Antonio with the 29th overall pick in the WNBA draft. "I've been blessed throughout my career with great coaches and teammates that have helped me achieve all that I have earned."




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