Mississippi State entered the spring signing period with no big men in the class of 2009.
The Bulldogs have since added three post players in as many week with the signing of power forwards Wendell Lewis and Renardo Sidney and now center John Riek today.
The 7-foot-1, 250-pounder from Sudan came to Starkville on a visit this past weekend and gave his pledge to head coach Rick Stansbury. Riek made things official on Wednesday faxing in his paperwork from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he has been rehabbing a knee injury.
"We're very excited to have John join our family," said Stansbury. "We know we're taking a chance on a kid who had a very serious injury. But we also know before the injury he was having an exciting career. Now, he's in the process of getting back to where he was before the knee injury. It's a slow process, but we're willing to take a chance on him since he's such a great kid. Again, he's nowhere near where he once was as a player, but it's our job to help him get back to that level that had him going straight to the NBA. That's our goal."
The four-star talent was rated the top center in the 2008 class and was originally committed to Cincinnati. He declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft this past year but pulled out in order to rehab his injury and improve his draft stock.
"Right now, Riek is about 60 percent healthy," said Dan Barto, an IMG instructor. "Redshirting him is probably not out of the question. I know Mississippi State will help him in that area. He is by no means a one-and-done player. There is no need to rush him and he is looking at 10 years from now playing instead of next year and pushing the issue."
Riek is 19-years old and came to the United State in 2006 after attending high school in Ethiopia, where his family fled after leaving Sudan. Riek attended both Our Savoir New American in Centereach, N.Y. and the Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass., before arriving at IMG.
Riek apparently felt comfortable with the surroundings in Starkville and was able to see the success a number of African athletes are currently having there.
"John was very pleased to see the facilities at Mississippi State," said Barto. "Another thing that played a big role were the other sports that had athletes from Africa. Mississippi State has a few players on the women's basketball team from the Congo and track athletes from Kenya."
His knee injury may not be the only thing holding him back from suiting up next season. Riek has qualified academically to attend MSU but still has some issues to address with the NCAA clearinghouse concerning his amateur status.
"Academically, he is cleared and everything is full go ahead," said Carto. "He just needs to iron some things out with the NCAA Clearinghouse since he applied for the NBA Draft last year. They have to back track on those things to see what needs to be done to maintain his amateur status."
Riek has an astounding 7-8 ½ wingspan and did not begin playing basketball until 2001.