STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's 2010-11 signing class got off to a resounding start as the Bulldogs landed three of the Magnolia State's top players in wings Rodney Hood and D.J. Gardner and point guard Deville Smith, 13th-year MSU coach Rick Stansbury announced.
All three were named to the Clarion Ledger's prestigious Dandy Dozen, and all three are considered Top 100 players overall nationally.
"I like them all," Stansbury said. "These are impact players that can take us to the next level. More importantly, they are good people with great character, the type of players every team wants on their roster."
The 6-foot-8, 180-pound Hood, a two-time Mississippi player of the year, averaged 22.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists last year as a junior and scored a record 34 points in the Mississippi High School All-Star Game. He led the Wildcats to a 26-7 record en route to advancing to the Class 6A championship game.
Listed as a five-start recruit, Rivals.com rates him as the 21st best player overall nationally, while ESPN has him at No. 30, followed by Scout.com at No. 49.
Hood's father, Rickey, played for MSU from 1978-80.
"Hood is very special," Stansbury said. "He has no cracks in his armor. To see how far he's come in the last year shows how special he is. He has a chance to be as good as anyone that has ever played here. He's versatile and can score off the dribble or off the pass. When you put him together as a person and a player, he is really special."
Joining Hood is Smith, a 5-11, 160-pound guard out of Callaway. This talented duo are also AAU teammates (MBA Hoops).
As a junior, Smith led his team to a second-straight Class 5A crown and averaged 22.4 points, 4.0 steals and 3.5 assists. He hit the game-winning shot against Provine at the buzzer to win the championship, while scoring a career-high 48 points against New Hope in the North 5A finals. As a sophomore, he earned second-team All-State honors.
Rated as a 4-star recruit, he's listed as the 40th best overall player in the country by ESPN and 63rd best by Rivals.com.
"He's tough and has great vision," Stansbury said. "He has just enough moxie at the point. He has that swagger. He can get the ball in the paint and pass it."
Rounding out the early signing period class is Okolona's D.J. Gardner.
Noted for his long-range shooting, the 6-7, 195-pound standout totaled 24.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals a contest as the Chieftains posted a 25-6 ledger and advanced to the North 1A semifinals. His season-high of 40 points came against Ingomar. They finished the season ranked No. 5 in the Class 1A rankings.
Gardner also stood out in the Mississippi High School All-Star Game, where he poured in 16 points.
A 4-star recruit, Rivals.com has him as the 60th player in the country, while ESPN has him at No. 91.
"D.J. has a good basketball I.Q., and can really make shots. He plays a lot of point. He can pass and shoot," Stansbury said.