INSIDER: Recruiting on Need, Building a Winner

By Ben Garrett

OleMissSports.com Insider

 

 

With recruiting being a year-round process, forming a proper strategy to fit a given system is essential.

 

Inheriting a roster built around defense, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and his staff hit the recruiting trail in search of players meeting certain attributes for the team’s up-tempo style of play.

 

With a recruiting focus on athleticism, the staff has spanned the nation looking for those players that possess this characteristic, as well as similar attributes such as toughness, speed and work ethic.

 

But finding players is the easy part. The hard part is finding those players that meet the criteria of the system, while meshing with players already on the roster.

 

Kennedy expressed that the first step in achieving this goal is to pinpoint areas of need.

 

“First we try to evaluate the needs of our team and fill those needs in whatever areas they may be," Kennedy said. "When I took the job last year I didn’t have a very good working understanding of our personnel and now I do. I think there are certain areas that need addressing, and I believe this recruiting class will help to address those needs."
 
After those need areas have been determined, the instituted strategy takes shape as the staff begins to find those players that meet the criteria presented. Assistant coach Michael White discusses that strategy and what the staff looks for throughout the recruiting process.

 

“First and foremost we’re looking for good players,” he said. “All staffs have different things they look at in players, but with our particular staff and style of play, the guys we go after have those characteristics we’ve laid out, as well as a winning mentality.”  

 

One need-area targeted by the staff is the backcourt. With the departure of seniors Todd Abernethy, Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders, finding players that can fill the void offensively and in leadership will be critical towards the future success of the team.

 

As leaders in the locker room and on the floor, the trio carried the squad offensively and helped lead Ole Miss to a 21-13 record, an SEC Western Division title and a postseason return. Despite their departure, White said that offensive production can be generated in a number of ways.

 

“With the guys we have and those we are bringing in, we will have some players that can take over in different ways outside of scoring,” said White. “Those three seniors did a lot of things for us offensively, but we have a lot of confidence in what we will be able to do offensively and in other areas with the personnel we will have.”


One player that will be relied on will be Florida transfer David Huertas. Despite having to sit out a year due to transfer rules, he has regularly practiced with the team and will be an integral part of the offense next season.

 

Kennedy stated Huertas has the potential to be a leader next year both on the court and in the locker room.
 
“Although he hasn’t played yet, David Huertas will not be a newcomer to our program,” said Kennedy. “We understand his skill set and the strengths of his game. With his great size and athleticism, David will be able to sure-up our lineup and contribute in various ways.”  

 

White added that Huertas could bring another dimension to the floor with his maturity.

 

“David can really score the ball and has a lot of confidence in his abilities, which makes him that much better,” White said. “He’s a tough, mature kid, who’s a little bit older and has had great experience after winning a lot of games his freshman year at Florida. He should be able to come in and help right away.”

 

Among this year’s signees, Zach Graham will also be looked upon to contribute immediately. Ranked as high as No. 81 among senior prospects by recruiting outlets, the 6-foot-5 scorer brings athleticism and size to the wing that Kennedy said was lacking last season.
 

“We had to get bigger on the wing and Zach brings that to the position,” Kennedy explained. “We had to add size and get more athletic in our backcourt and Zach provdes a lot of athleticism to an area of need.”

 

Graham is one of five talented recruits to ink with Ole Miss this year, along with Chris Warren, Kevin Cantinol, Trevor Gaskins and Wesley Jones.
 
Entering the 2006-07 season, expectations for Rebel basketball were limited. But through hard work by the players and coaches, a team that hadn’t reached postseason play since 2002 was able to reel off 21 wins and a trip to the NIT. With an emerging excitement surrounding the basketball program and a recruiting class that features numerous contributors, future success is evident in Oxford.

 

White is excited about what the future holds and is ready for the opportunity presented.

 

“I think we have a very good staff in place with coach Kennedy, very good talent coming in and some good, tough kids who have won a lot of games,” he said. “We made some big strides this year, but I feel we are going to be more talented next year, so I really like the future for our program.”


 

 

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