Rebels Enter Kennedy's 11th Season with Unusual Roster Makeup
Oct. 11, 2016

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is entering his 11th season at the helm of Rebel Basketball. He’s easily the longest-tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference. In fact, the other 13 SEC schools have cycled through 41 head coaches since Kennedy’s first season.

He’s seen about all there is to see in that time, so when he says his team this year is unusual, it must be.

“Every group is different, and the makeup of each team is so different,” Kennedy said. “This is probably the most unusual collection of guys I’ve ever had.

“We’ve got 12 scholarship players. Only six have been in the program, and only five have been in a game for Ole Miss. We’re dealing with half of our roster being brand new. We have guys on our team that represent five different countries. We’ve got all kinds of things going on. We’re trying to find out who we are.”

The only player on the roster to be with the program for four years is Sebastian Saiz. In years past, the offense was funneled through guard play in the form of Marshall Henderson and Stefan Moody. This year, that could be a little different.

“Last year when we needed a basket, we were going to go through Stefan Moody,” Kennedy said. “Two or three years ago, we would run something for Marshall Henderson. This year, our first option is going to be Sebastian on the block. It’s a challenge I think he’s ready for.”

Outside of working on his post offense, Saiz also expanded his range this offseason. He’s always been proficient at scoring on midrange shots, but this year he’ll take a few steps back to behind-the-arc.

“He’s a guy that I’ve challenged to be a double-double guy for us this year and lead the SEC in rebounding,” Kennedy said. “That’s a challenge that he’s up for. He’s a guy that’s going to make 3s this year. He’s worked tirelessly on it in the offseason.”

The Rebels have upper-classman talent in the backcourt, although they have not yet played in games for Ole Miss. Junior Deandre Burnett spent last year sitting out after transferring from Miami, but he gives Kennedy a versatile scorer at guard.

“He can score at all three levels,” Kennedy said. “He can make threes. I don’t want him to be a Marshall or Moody volume shooter, but he’s a guy that’s going to make 60, 70 or 80 3s. He can score in the mid-range game, which I really think is his strength. He’s strong enough to get to the basket and finish and get to the free throw line.”

Junior guard Cullen Neal is in a new situation after transferring away from New Mexico where his father coached him for three years.

“This is something that’s completely new to him as well,” Kennedy said. “With that is going to come a bit of transition. With Burnett and Cullen, you’re talking about two 22-year-old guys. Cullen is a college graduate. He’s very anxious to show he made the right decision.”

 

 

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