July 15, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — A year after losing two three-year starters in Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss ranked 12th in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding margin.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy went in search of help to bolster his frontline in the off season and found it in M.J. Rhett, a graduate transfer from Tennessee State.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward from Columbia, South Carolina led the Ohio Valley Conference and ranked eighth in the nation with 14 double-doubles, as he averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
He will look to fill a stretch-four role for the Rebels, as he adds length and athleticism to a frontcourt group that includes senior Aaron Jones and a trio of sophomores in Terry Brutus, Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz
“They were young last year, and they were trying their hardest to lead the team,” Rhett said. “It was not enough as a whole, so we need someone to step up. They expect me to be a mismatch problem and defend well. I’m going to play the stretch four, and they expect me to lead the team and help the team win.”
Rhett is one of five newcomers on this year’s team, along with UT Martin transfer Terence Smith, junior college transfers Roderick Lawrence and Stefan Moody and incoming freshman Marcanvis Hymon.
“It’s an adjustment,” Rhett said. “I was a leader on my old team. Coming to a new team, I’m one of the older guys here too, so I’m going to see how everyone takes things different, talk to them and lead them.’
In addition to seeing Ole Miss advance to the NCAA Tournament during the 2012-13 season, Rhett credited his relationship with Holloway, a fellow South Carolinian from Irmo, as a factor in transferring to Ole Miss after three seasons at Tennessee State.
“It helped me during my recruitment process because I know Murphy, and he told how it was here at Ole Miss,” Rhett said. “He told me they would treat you well and put you in position to succeed.
“Coming into the program, I already had a good feeling that everyone was pretty good. Seeing it in person, I feel even better about everything. Everyone adjusts in their own way. At the end of the day, we’re all bonding and getting used to different things.”
With a new-look roster, the Rebels’ trip to the Bahamas in August will go a long way in their preparation for the upcoming season.
“It’s going to be good because we need to play against someone else and see how we look, instead of playing against each other every day,” Rhett said. “It’s also going to be a good experience to bond.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller.