MSU’s Rhodes has Final Four connection|[3/30/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

JACKSON – While he did not bring home the Howell Trophy this year, look for Mississippi State’s Charles Rhodes to get his due in the near future.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Lanier High School in Jackson was a runner-up for the award, given to the state’s best collegiate basketball player. The award went to Division II National Player of the Year Jasper Johnson of Delta State. Jackson State guard Trey Johnson finished third.

Rhodes did have something to boast about. Not too many players say they got to butt heads with three of the four teams in this year’s NCAA Final Four.

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&#8220This was a guy who was Top 5 in scoring and rebounding in a league that sent two teams to the Final Four and led us to a win against one of the others,” said Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton.

The Bulldogs lost twice to Atlanta Regional winner LSU (71-57, 72-59), once to Minneapolis Regional winner Florida (75-60), but beat Washington Regional winner George Mason 63-61 in a Dec. 30 game in Starkville.

&#8220We played Florida, we played LSU and we beat George Mason,” Rhodes said after the Howell Trophy presentation at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. &#8220I think it’s going to be Florida and LSU in the finals.

&#8220And I think LSU is going to win. They’ve got the athletes,” Rhodes predicted.

While Rhodes expected LSU and Florida to reach Indianapolis, George Mason was a surprise.

&#8220I remembered they had a great team. I guarded No. 55 (Jai Lewis). But it was a shock to me, and everybody else, that they beat UConn,” Rhodes said. &#8220Even though they were not big, they were a good intense team.”

Rhodes, though, has more love for his SEC mates in LSU and Florida.

&#8220Florida has a good team but LSU has too many athletes. (Glen) Big Baby (Davis) is so strong. He pushed me out of the lane and all I could do is shoot jumpers,” Rhodes said of his battles with LSU’s sophomore phenom Davis and freshman highlight reel Tyrus Thomas.

Rhodes had his moments against all three teams and finished the season as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at 13.8 points and seven rebounds.

With two more seasons left, Rhodes feels the Bulldogs (15-15) can return to the NCAA Tournament.

&#8220We just need another big man and another guard and we’ll be right in there. I’ve got two more years at State.

&#8220You’re not going to hear NBA out of Charles Rhodes, until then.”