JACKSON , Miss. – Call it a clean sweep for Mississippi State.
On Monday night at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, juniors Jarvis Varnado and Alexis Rack were awarded the 2009 Cellular South Howell and Gillom trophies, respectively, in recognition of being the top male and female collegiate basketball players in the state of Mississippi as voted upon by the members of the media.
"If we continue to see the caliber of players we had here tonight, you'll soon see basketball move toward the popularity level of football," executive hall of fame director Michael Rubenstein said. "There is no question basketball is moving in one direction, and that's up."
Varnado, who led the Bulldogs in scoring (12.9) and rebounding (8.8) this past year, is the third MSU player to win the Howell Trophy, as he joins Lawrence Roberts (2005) and Jamont Gordon (2008).
And it's been a season of accolades for the Brownsville , Tenn. , native, who once again led the nation with 170 blocked shots. He was named All-SEC and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by both the Associated Press and the league coaches and was the SEC Tournament MVP after leading the Bulldogs to their third title in school history with a 64-61 win against Tennessee .
"It's an amazing feeling," Varnado said in regards to winning the award. "I feel like I'm dreaming."
Rack, a Franklin, La., product, was instrumental in the Lady Bulldogs advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated Texas before losing a heart-breaker to host Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. She averaged 14.8 points a game, and the All-SEC selection was fifth in the conference in assists with a 4.3 average.
"I have to credit my teammates," said Rack, whose 1,179 career points rank 10th all-time at MSU. "They are the reason for my success. This is just amazing. I can't even describe the feeling."
In attendance on Monday making the presentations were the namesakes of the two awards: former Ole Miss All-American Peggie Gillom and former Mississippi State All-American and national basketball hall of famer, Bailey Howell.