OLE MISS

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as selected questions and answers from Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Georgia head coach Mark Fox.

Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed in this week's 2014 SEC Tournament in Atlanta and will play the winner of 11-seed Vanderbilt and 14-seed Mississippi State in the second round Thursday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3). The winner of Thursday's game will play 3-seed Georgia in the quarterfinals Friday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

We're excited about heading to Atlanta and competing in the SEC Tournament coming off a hard-fought win, which will hopefully give our guys some life moving forward.

On Arkansas' big loss at Alabama: 

We're all living on a slippery slope. We played about as poorly as I have ever seen a team play from our vantage point against a team that played about as well as they could possibly play in Arkansas, and then both scripts got flipped. All I saw was the final score. 

I was not surprised so much that Alabama won because Alabama is a good basketball team and it's hard to win on the road, but when I saw the score I was surprised because of how well Arkansas had been playing, and then as poorly as we played, we were able to bounce back and grind out a hard home win. It speaks to my theory, where I don't believe in game-to-game momentum; I believe in in-game momentum. Each game has a life in and of itself, and you have to prepared as such.

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

Most everyone, especially when you have a lot on the line, you hope that your players would go into with a sense of urgency that the next loss could be your last game. We have one senior, and I know he will be playing with a sense of urgency. When you have a number of different guys who have that sense of urgency, you make plays and special things can happen. 

We were certainly a part of that last year. I had three prominent members of our team, who were seniors, and they were playing with that senior sense of urgency, and we were able to get a last-second win in game one. We had a feeling of relief but also excitement about the potential that the next day held, and that's what you can experience sometimes in tournament play.

On balancing the routine with the excitement of playing in the SEC Tournament:

Heading not the tournament, you try to keep your routine the same. We have been doing this now for a number of months, and you try to stay on the same routine. Once you get into that tournament setting, there's always electricity in that building. The SEC does an outstanding job of creating an electric atmosphere. Guy gets excited about that, and if you can get through that first game, guys are really on edge as it relates to the opportunity that's in front of them.

On Georgia's play through the SEC regular season:

Mark (Fox) and his staff did an outstanding job of getting that team to understand who they were. They were 6-6 in the non-league and when you do that, not many people gave them much hope of moving up in the standings once they got into league play. They looked in the mirror and made the necessary adjustments as to who they were and their best chance to be successful, and they maximized that by having an outstanding run in our league. 

They're playing as well as anybody with a hard-fought win at LSU in the last game. They're playing with momentum and a lot of confidence. They'll be in their home state, and there will be a lot of Bulldogs in the building. Last year, we came into the tournament in a similar mode, where we were tied for second and we got the third seed via a tiebreaker, and then we were able to make our run. Georgia is in a great position.

On the team's mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

I'm like most every coach. We split the season into a number of different quarters going back to our high school days. Now we're in the fourth quarter. This is the postseason. This is the epitome of March Madness, which created this mindset that anything can happen. We lived that last year when we were able to go and have a magical run. That's still fresh on the thoughts of our players' minds. We realized that the task is going to be a daunting one, but at the same time, all coaches try to turn the page and say we're all starting here anew. There's a lot to play for heading into Atlanta.

Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray

Opening statement:

We're getting ready for a well-coached Vanderbilt team. Coach Stallings does about as good a job as anybody in the nation of exploiting some of your weakness, both on the offensive end and defensive end. On the offensive end, for them, they do a great job of running a lot of set plays. When you're playing Vanderbilt, you have to make sure that you rely on your principles more so than just guarding their set because they do a lot of sets, but more importantly they have counters to those sets to exploit anything that you're doing as far as the way you're guarding the basketball.

In the first game against them, Damian Jones got in early foul trouble. He has a world of potential, and he's going to be a really good player in the SEC. Having him available on the court to give them an inside presence, along with their outside shooters and scorers will be a problem for us.

On the team mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

The one thing that we're trying to focus on, because we're playing Vanderbilt, and we played a good game against them. It was a closely contested ball game. We had a couple of chances to cut it to two points under two minutes, and we missed point-blank layups and a couple of tips. You could show them that you had some success against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt, so that's one thing that always helps. The second thing is that we went into the SEC Tournament last year, and it was the first time that we had won a game in the SEC Tournament since 2008 as a program. You try to point to those positive things because the negatives are very obvious.

On the team's depth:

It's a problem. I don't think you can sit here and say that we're on an even playing field with everybody else. Our first year we were playing with six and seven scholarship guys, and this year we played the whole season with seven and eight scholarship guys. There are two things we don't have. We never had the competition for playing time. Any program needs that. The second thing is that I have never had our best teacher, which is the bench. You need that to have that competitive fire in your program all the time. Our guys continue to play hard. Everybody has their bumps and bruises at this point in time. It's more mentally fatigued than physically fatigued. Our guys have to pull it together for the stretch run.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

First of all, I would like to congratulate Coach Donovan and the Florida Gator basketball team on their championship. Going 18-0 in our league is an incredible accomplishment, so I congratulate them on a job more than well done. Our team is coming off of two very close games, difficult, similar-type losses from last week. 

We're thankful for the opportunity to play again. Those were two frustrating losses for us last week, but we're hopeful that we can get to Atlanta and play the way we have been playing defensively and maybe play better on offense. Our defense has been good enough in our recent games except for one to really give us a chance to win games, and our offense has not been what we need it to be, so hopefully we can do some things this week can get that rectified and play better offensively and maintain the defensive intensity that we have shown the last few weeks. 

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

It tends to happen just in the games. You can start to get the feeling in a game. If you win one, maybe you get on a little bit of a roll. There has never been anything that I have sensed going into the tournament when we have done well or when we have done poorly. It's more of thing where you get there, you win a game and then you get a feeling, see some confidence and start playing well, and the confidence gets contagious and it carries you through the weekend. I have never sensed anything in the prior couple days going into the tournament. 

When you win, you gain confidence and momentum is built. In 2004, I remember when we beat Mississippi State, which was league champion that year, in overtime and that was a tremendous situation for us because they had just won the league. That catapulted us not only in that tournament, but that gave us momentum going into the NCAA Tournament as well. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, winning a big game, winning a tough game, winning a close game, and it continues to provide you momentum.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox

Opening statement:

Our team is excited about the tournament. We're really excited that it's in Atlanta and just down the road for us, so hopefully we will have some support from our fan base there in Atlanta. Our kids are really excited about the tournament, and it should be a great week of basketball in the Georgia Dome.

On this year's team:

Normally, you compare most things in the life to the first time you maybe did something, so I compare of my teams to my first team, which I thought was really a group of overachievers and a team that was picked fourth in the league that won the league and won an NCAA Tournament game and was a joy to coach. Every year, I often compare the team I'm coaching to that group because it was my first one and it was one of my favorite teams. 

This team has been just as much fun to coach. These guys have been a real joy, and I look forward to seeing them every day. They enjoy each other. Throughout the season, whether it is success or failure, they have tried to use things to grow as people and grow as a team. From that standpoint, it's been a process that we have all enjoyed.

On the locker room after the win over LSU:

It was typical. The kids were certainly excited. They had a sense of accomplishment for winning the game because LSU is a good team, and it was a good win. It was typical of a scene after a conference road win. It was not more than that. When you win a road game in this league, it's very hard to do, and so they were excited like they would be for most conference road victories.

On the coach's control of team chemistry:

Coaches do their best to manage the personality of the group, but the one thing that you can't control -- and you can in some instances as you recruit -- is the quality of character. You really have to have people that have great character to strive and achieve, and sometimes you can't control that. You don't know exactly -- even though there is some communication in recruiting -- until you go to battle with someone how they're wired. Fortunately, we have a really good chemistry and some really good character on our team that has allowed us to continue to grow.

On the team entering conference play:

That was a tough time. We had played George Washington in our last nonconference game, and I learned right before that game that my dad was about to pass, and so right before conference play started, I was away from the team for a day or two. I don't know if at that time we had a grasp on what we could accomplish. From day one this year, we felt like we could have a good team. Even though Kentavious left, and we knew there would be some growing pains getting used to his absence, they didn't waver from thinking we could have a good team. It just took a little while to figure out how to do that.

On NCAA Tournament standing entering SEC Tournament:

For the first time, yesterday, since I didn't know whom we would be playing, I took a minute to look at it. I don't know if we will have to win it, but it sure takes the stress out of it if you could do. We would have to advance. To have a legitimate at-large chance, we would have to advance. If you advance, you might as well win it.


Long-time Ole Miss athletic trainer Leroy Mullins will be inducted into the Southeast Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame later this month. He will be recognized at the organization's annual clinical symposium March 14-16 at the Crown Plaza Ravinia Hotel in Atlanta, with an awards luncheon scheduled for March 15 at noon.

Mullins held a variety of positions in his 29 years with the Ole Miss athletic department, including head athletic trainer, director of insurance and wellness and the director of sports medicine. 

He is best remembered for his on-field care and treatment for Chucky Mullins, who had his career at Ole Miss come to a tragic end Oct. 28, 1989 when he broke his neck while making a tackle against Vanderbilt, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"You did not take anything for granted," said Leroy of that day. "You go to the practice field every day, or go into a ball game, and then it would come to an end. You leave there and go back to your training room and you have bruises and things of that nature that you have to take care of, but that day with Chucky, I couldn't do anything more. It was beyond my control. It was beyond my hands, and I had to turn it loose and put in the good Lord's hands. I believe the good Lord had a plan for Chucky, and he honored that plan. And Chucky's life is being honored today. The handicap scholarship fund that was established in Chucky's name is still helping students go to school. Chucky's memory will never die, and I hope that The University of Mississippi continues to keep that alive because he united the university in so many different ways.

"That was the big case of my career. That's the case that I'm remembered the most for. I will never forget it. It changed my life. It changed my children's lives. I can remember telling my family that night after he got hurt that we would never be the same."

THE SEASON: Ole Miss Basketball (2014) - Episode 7 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

In case you missed it, here are each of the first six episodes of The Season: Ole Miss Basketball:

Episode 1 (Season overview, Auburn, Mississippi State games)

Episode 2 (LSU, South Carolina)

Episode 3 (Vanderbilt, Mississippi State)

Episode 4 (Tennessee, South Carolina)

Episode 5 (Missouri, Alabama, Georgia)

Episode 6 (Kentucky, Florida)


Fast Runner From Down Under

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Bulmer_020714_JN_cropped.jpgIn less than a full indoor season with the Ole Miss track & field team, Australian distance runner Daniel Bulmer has had a significant impact on the school record books and set the stage for a lot more to come in the near future.

Bulmer, who is classified as a junior and is working on his master's degree at Ole Miss, has jumped into the No. 3 spot in the school record books in the indoor mile (4:01.37) and distance medley relay (9:40.17). He will be among the nationally ranked Rebels' top competitors when outdoor season begins later this month.

After his first few days in Mississippi, Bulmer blogged about his experience, and it's a really good reflection of the life of a foreign college athlete in the United States. Here are some excerpts:

"I have always been intrigued by the U.S. I'm not entirely sure why but it has to do with the fact that everything is done on a massive scale, certainly in comparison to Australia, and as I was about to find out track and field was no different.

I have only been on campus at the University of Mississippi (affectionately known as Ole Miss) for less than a week but I already feel at home ... This is because the people of Oxford, the college town in which Ole Miss is situated, have lived up to the reputation that the people of the southern states are extremely nice and welcoming and will go out of their way to help you out. This also extends to the track team. I have met so many great people in such a short time which has definitely made the transition easier. It also helps that Ole Miss is such an aesthetic campus, regularly ranked among the nation's most beautiful universities ...

Anyway, now I'll give you an insight into what you're all probably interested in hearing about, the life of a student-athlete. I'll also give you a rundown of our facilities. First of all let me say this place blew my mind! As I mentioned before, everything is done on a massive scale right down to the smallest details. Student-athletes are treated like royalty here, there are buildings dedicated solely for use by athletes and can only be accessed via fingerprint scanners! Yes, fingerprint scanners! Anything that an athlete can dream of is available here and all the staff is devoted to helping you reach your potential and achieve your goals in your chosen sport, such is the U.S. collegiate athletic scene ...

Our school has some of the best facilities and latest technology available to its athletes for daily use. Examples of such technology and facilities include, both an underwater treadmill and an alter G treadmill, hot and cold recovery baths, Normatec compression boots, a state of the art indoor practice facility complete with an indoor track, multiple weight rooms, a mondo track and my personal favourite the fuel stations where you can find anything an athlete would need from a nutrition standpoint from water and Gatorade to vitamin and recovery mixtures as well as fruit, bagels....the list goes on! There is even an academic building for athletes (Yes, they also care about the academic side of things) where we can jump onto a computer, do some quiet study or access a tutor ...

Along with the exceptional facilities there is also a great support team that includes sports trainers, a doctor, nutritionists, a massage therapist, strength and conditioning coaches, academic advisors and staff and of course the respective coaches of each discipline all who work tirelessly to manage our needs as athletes which creates a great atmosphere for training and enables us to perform as best we can come race day ...

On another note, a unique aspect at Ole Miss is the positive relationship between sports which apparently doesn't occur at all schools. For instance we share the same training facilities as the football team and they are as nice as anyone on campus and will always say hello and have a chat. There is a great deal of respect between athletes no matter what sport you play as everyone knows we all work as hard as each other.

All in all I feel very privileged to be in the position that I am now, competing as a member of a division 1 school in arguably the strongest conference in the nation giving myself every opportunity to better myself as an athlete. I am appreciative to have been given the chance to run alongside a young group of athletes that has the potential to achieve big things in the not too distant future especially under the guidance of Head Coach O'Neal and the men's distance coach, Coach Vanhoy."

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