John Riek's story is going to begin a new chapter as Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury announced on Tuesday the center would transfer from MSU. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
John Riek, we hardly knew ye.
On Tuesday, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury announced Riek was not enrolled in summer school at MSU and plans on transferring.
Riek’s journey to Starkville is truly what great books are made of. Born in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1989, Riek began playing basketball at the age of 14 while living in Ethiopia. From there, he blossomed to 7-foot-1 center with a daunting 7-foot-8 wingspan. Upon arriving stateside in 2006, he quickly made a name for himself on the AAU circuit, causing coaches, scouts and media members to grab their roster sheets as they tried to figure out who in the hell was this kid. A show-stopping performance against then-top ranked player Samardo Samuels at the LeBron James Skills Academy Camp in 2007 vaulted Riek into recruiting stardom. Rivals.com eventually named him the best center prospect of 2008.
When not appearing at sneaker sponsored all-star scrimmages, Riek spent time at multiple prep schools, eventually settling at IMG Academy in Florida. From there he teased NBA scouts with his potential, but not before pulling his name out of the 2008 draft and committing to Cincinnati. There was a reason he wasn’t a lottery pick or even covered the paint for the Bearcats—his knees were shot.
A series of knee injuries, including aggravating it on a leg press machine that was too small and tearing his ACL, hobbled Riek, causing him to lose the explosion that made him elite.
In May 2009, Stansbury took a flier on him—who at the time was around 60 percent in the recovery process—as Riek signed with Mississippi State over Providence.
I attended one of Riek’s first collegiate games, a 2009 exhibition against Centenary in Jackson. The game was plodding along when Stansbury gave the call for Riek to sub in. Once the mundane crowd noticed Riek was making his way to the scorer’s table, a roar slowly developed, filling Mississippi Coliseum.
Watching him gallop up the court with a long, looping stride, we immediately fell for him. After receiving a pass at the top of the key, he held the ball over his head as two Centenary defenders repeatedly lept for it, unsuccessfully trying to knock it away. He finished up with six points, seven rebounds and a standing ovation.
Sadly, we also knew he wouldn't amount to much. Drilling over 250 pounds from a giant frame on a shaky foundation? It physically can't work. His knees were damaged goods.
Riek didn't get much playing time that season and it was the same for this year, despite a lack of depth. For the 2010-2011 season, Riek averaged a mere 1.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 5 minutes a game.
How does Riek’s departure affect this year’s team? Not much. The Bulldogs’ front court is talent heavy, featuring Renardo Sidney, Arnett Moultrie and Wendell Lewis. The move also opens up a scholarship for the upcoming season.
Now it looks as if Riek's next chapter will take place in Southern Indiana or Georgetown College, according to Jeff Goodman.