Ole Miss Guard Makes Impact on and off the Court
By CHRIS TALBOTT Associated Press Writer     OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Andy Kennedy has coached a lot of players in his career, but few have been like Ole Miss point guard Todd Abernethy.   Kennedy thinks the senior is a quality basketball player. But more importantly, Abernethy is one of the better people he's been around. He even passes Kennedy's daughter test.   "The greatest compliment I could give him is I've got two daughters at 10 and 6, and I told him I want him to marry one of them," Kennedy said with a smile. "He's going to have to hold off a few years."   Abernethy has been a large contributor for the Rebels since his freshman year. With six games to go in the regular season of his final campaign, Abernethy has Ole Miss (16-8, 5-5) tied for the Southeastern Conference's Western Division lead, and LSU (13-10, 3-7) is coming to town Wednesday.   He's averaging 11.3 points per game, and leads the Southeastern Conference in assists per game (5.52) and assist-to-turnover ratio. His ratio of 3.34 assists to one turnover is second in the nation.   While opposing coaches don't expect him to put up eye-popping scores, they do have to school their teams to watch out for all the other things he does.   "He's tough, he's a gamer, he makes shots when he needs to, he passes the ball, he seems to be an unselfish very good team player that can do a lot of things," LSU's John Brady said.   "He's the key to their team and the one that makes them go."   Abernethy was a last-minute acquisition by the Rebels in 2003. After backing out of a commitment to Wright State when the coach was fired, then-Indiana coach Mike Davis recommended him to then-Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes.   While not the most acclaimed player available, he had the pedigree. His father, Tom, was the starting forward for the 1976 Indiana team that went undefeated and won an NCAA title. And two of his brothers also played college ball.   Barnes took a chance on Abernethy and the gamble paid off. Abernethy has started every game over the last two seasons and as a freshman. And though he started only 10 games in the 2004-05 season, deferring to a senior, he received the SEC's sixth man award.   With just a few games left in his college career, he's forged a place among the most hyped recruits who still get more ink than him but don't always have the same results.   "I wouldn't trade him for anybody," Kennedy said.   "We're playing him heavy minutes and he's responded. There's a lot of talented point guards in this league ... the list goes on and on, but I think Todd for our team and the value he brings to our team is second to none."   He's just about everything you could want in a basketball player. But Kennedy and those who know him say he's also everything you could want in a person.   In addition to studying hard enough to earn a place on the SEC's academic honor roll three seasons in a row as a banking and finance major, he spends more time than most athletes on outreach programs.   The three-time team captain is an SEC Good Works Team member who's traveled to places as far away as Brazil and Bermuda preaching the values of hard work and faith. He also frequently heads just down the street to read to elementary students.   "I think kids especially really need the influence in their lives," Abernethy said. "Because of my platform, just being a Division I basketball player, that alone gives me the opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives."   The 6-foot-1 native of Carmel, Ind., said he gets back as much as he gives, however.   "A lot of times you think you go to share, to impact these kids," he said. "But a lot of times I leave just totally encouraged and realize I feel really fulfilled through it and realize my life counts. Impacting others really kind of confirms my life. I realize that, man, this is what it's all about."   After he led Ole Miss to an upset of then-No. 18 Alabama on Saturday, the Rebels are in NCAA Tournament discussions as a "bubble team," one that could be chosen for the field of 64 with a handful of key victories down the stretch. The Rebels are 55th in the latest RPI rankings and moving up.   And he's the man in charge.   "I'm really confident right now and feel like I am one of the best point guards in the league," he said.  
 

 

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