STARKVILLE — It’s possible the biggest Mississippi State men’s basketball fan the last three years was actually on the team.
Andrew Junkin, a 6-foot-11 walk on for the Bulldogs, only played 16 minutes of game action in a three-year collegiate career. The lack of playing time never deteriorated his work ethic.
An optional workout was being held? Count him in. The Bulldogs needed to get future NBA draftees Robert Woodard II or Reggie Perry a different look on scout team? Junkin would happily oblige.
“It would have been easy to fall into a complacent attitude of ‘Well, I’m never going to play so I can let my athleticism go and not show up to those extra workouts because I won’t play anyways,’” Junkin told The Dispatch. “But for me, as a competitor and always wanting to be a good teammate, I showed up for all the extra work I could get with those guys.”
His selflessness earned him a reputation in the locker room as a high-character teammate that would yell like hell on gamedays from what Junkin called the best seat in the house after his teammates threw down a dunk or made a key defensive stop.
“That was the role I had,” Junkin said. “There weren’t any minutes for me, so I was going to do whatever I could to contribute. If that meant me screaming louder than everyone in the gym, that’s what I was going to do if it could contribute to my team’s success … It helped a lot that I adored my teammates at Mississippi State. Those guys are my family.”
After graduating high school, Junkin passed on several Division I offers to walk on to the team he grew up watching from nearly 30 miles away. He got what he needed from MSU, graduating with an accounting degree in three years. But the New Hope native still had a competitive itch to scratch.
After the Bulldogs brought in highly touted transfers this offseason such as Garrison Brooks and D.J. Jeffries, he knew there was no path to playing time if he stayed in Starkville. So, he entered his name in the transfer portal. Not five minutes after his entry, former Mississippi State video coordinator Josh Pierre, now employed with the same role at Elon University, reached out to Junkin.
“If you’re leaving Mississippi State, I’m going to talk to the coaches up here,” Pierre told Junkin after contacting him.
Elon, a school located in Elon, North Carolina, had a spot open in its frontcourt and wanted to court Junkin and offer him a scholarship.
In his mind, Junkin had no doubt he could make contributions to a Phoenix team that was 10-9 a year ago. If he can hold his own in practice against the likes of Perry and former standout center Abdul Ado, why can’t he make an impact at a lower level Division I school?
“You practice against guys like Reggie and Abdul, it’s a wake up call for sure,” Junkin said. “It’s not like ‘Oh, I’m the best player at my school’ anymore. All these guys were the best players in their district. You’re not in a situation where that matters anymore … Getting to practice with guys like that, I’m beyond ready. I’m ready to show up and get an opportunity to compete.”
Junkin was no slouch himself at New Hope, averaging 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game while leading the Trojans to the state tournament in his senior season.
In his conversations with Elon’s coaching staff, how much Junkin will play was never a topic of conversation. But he said he will be given a chance to earn minutes.
“Nobody promises playing time at this level,” Junkin said. “At least nobody that’s telling you the truth. What they do say is there’s minutes up for grabs and we think you can fill them, but you have to come in here and work for them and earn them. There’s nothing given to you.
“During the whole recruiting process I never asked them for minutes. I asked if they needed somebody like me and if they’ll give me an opportunity to show them (what I can do). I think that’s what they really liked about me.”
Junkin would have been the tallest player on Elon’s roster a year ago and will be on a scholarship as the Golden Triangle native hopes to grow his business network in addition to making on-court contributions. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining with the Phoenix.
“(Andrew is) our kind of guy, a hard worker, a competitor and all about the team,” Elon head coach Mike Schrange said of the addition of Junkin. “He is a big body that will help us daily. He is also a great example of the kind of student-athletes we love to have at Elon. He completed his undergraduate degree in 3 years and will be working on his masters while here.”