Andy Kennedy Pre-Camp Press Conference
We’re excited to get started. We’re opening practice tonight. It’s been fortunate that we’ve had an opportunity to work with these guys in a limited capacity to this point, so we’ve gotten a little better awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and some things we can do to correct those areas. We are looking forward to getting started. They pushed the season up on us a week, so we only have literally three weeks starting today from our first opportunity to open exhibition play against Delta State, so there’s a lot of work to be done.
What are the most important things to find out between now and the
There are a lot of things. When you’re dealing with eight new players, there are a lot of things you have to get in. The basic foundation of what you’re trying to accomplish and then build with that. I think number one we have to establish the identity of our team and the way in which we want to play. We’ve been trying to put that in throughout the preseason.
Are the young players feeding off of the star power and attitude of some of the experienced players?
I think that we have a special group of young guys. They’re talented, but the reason I think they have the opportunity to be special is they bring a level of maturity that you typically don’t see in first-year guys. There’s no hesitancy in them, even though they really don’t know what the next day brings. They’ve approached the preseason in a very mature fashion, very workmanlike, and as a result they’ve been able to get some things accomplished.
Are there chemistry concerns with such a large class of newcomers?
You always are concerned about how all the pieces are going to fit together. To this point, it could not have gone better quite frankly. We’ve got a good group of kids who have high character. There are a lot of different ways in which you can play the game. You can play fast, slow, man-to-man, zone, but one thing I am completely convinced about you cannot win without character. As we are going throughout the country recruiting players, the one thing we try to do is bring in guys of character. I think we’ve done that with this class, and that has enabled us to make a pretty smooth transition to this point.
Talk about the point guards.
That’s obviously the big glaring question. When you consider that we have three guys along our front line in Dwayne Curtis, Jermey Parnell and Kenny Williams, who have all been through the wars in the SEC and they’ve all had differing amounts of success, then couple that with Eniel Polynice coming back who got valuable minutes for us last year and certainly showed flashes of being a very good SEC player and David Huertas, who although to you guys will be a newcomer, to us we have a sense of what to expect from him on a day-in, day-out basis having had him at our practices for the last year, the one area of concern will be the point. We came to take Todd (Abernethy) for granted with his steady play. Now we’re going to be depending upon new guys in Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, along with Brian Smith. Brian’s kind of like our safety blanket. We know what he’s going to give us. He’s now a senior, the only upperclassmen in our backcourt, and we’re expecting him to take that next step in his maturation and not only provide leadership between the lines but off the court as well as he tries to help these young guys make the transition.
How big of a boost was it to get Malcolm White in this year’s class?
It’s huge. Malcolm White is a kid who immediately brings a different level of energy and athleticism to our front line. At six-foot-nine with a seven-foot two-and-a-half wing span, he’s a bundle of energy who really impacts the game immediately on the defensive end. He’s going to be a tremendous player before he leaves Ole Miss.
What is the status of Dwayne Curtis’ foot?
He’s cleared to practice as of earlier this week. We’re going to take it very slow. There’s no need to rush. It’s unfortunate for him that he’s missed really the last two preseasons because of foot injuries. There’s nothing he can do about it, nothing we can do about it, other than proceed with caution.
Since you’ve won the West, how is it different from last year when you maybe snuck up on some people?
Well, it’s a totally different group. I do think that last year as we were undertaking this transition, we really didn’t know what to expect out of our personnel. They were learning about us, we were learning about them. We were going through the league for the first time. We didn’t know the dynamics of Ole Miss and the SEC in general. This year it’s completely different. With the success that we were able to enjoy last year, I see a different expectation internally from our guys. As a staff we don’t have to spend a lot of time selling a vision or selling a dream that if we take the right approach, these are the things we can accomplish. Our guys having experienced that last year come in with a completely different set of goals and expectations internally, which as a coach is comforting. So now you can spend the majority of your time trying to get the fundamentals and the things you’re trying to get accomplished get across from day one.
Do you want to average 90 or 100 points per game?
We want to improve on it. Last year I think we increased by eight or nine points. We certainly want it moving in the upward direction. There’s no question our team speed, our length, our athleticism, our depth is markedly better. Hopefully that will transition into more points per game.
Is this more of an Andy Kennedy-type team?
From a personnel standpoint, I think it is more of the type of team that we’re looking for long-range and what we feel is in the best interest of the program.
What’s different for you today than a year ago on the opening day of practice?
Just much more of a sense of comfort in understanding Ole Miss, having a better feel for the SEC, and I certainly know these kids much better than the previous year. We’ve had a hand in bringing in 11 of the 14 guys that you’ll see playing this year. Obviously Brian Smith, Dwayne Curtis and Jermey Parnell were here with the prior regime, so these are guys that we’ve had an opportunity to recruit and develop relationships with, and they’re more in tune to what we’re trying to do long term as it relates to style of play.
Are you getting a lot more respect nationally in recruiting after the great year last year?
Well, in recruiting there are a lot of small pieces that make up the whole. Number one, we have a great university to sell. Number two, we’re in the best league in all of college athletics. I think style of play has opened some eyes and no longer is it simply something we’re talking about, but there’s some tangible proof that we can do it if we take the right approach. We’re passionate about building this to a very high level. I know expectations externally sometimes people still look at us as little Ole Miss, but I assure you internally we feel very, very good about where we are heading.
What are some concerns about getting two young guys acclimated quickly to the point guard position?
Experience has to be earned, game in and game out. I would be concerned if I didn’t feel those kids were SEC-caliber point guards, but I know they are.
Is this season an experiment with more talent and less experience?
I always think talent trumps experience, personally. When you’re really good is when you have experienced, talented players. That’s when you have a chance to make a run. I would take talent over experience any day.
What is the status of the indoor basketball practice facility?
I don’t know what the status is. I know we’re still in a fundraising capacity, and I’m hopeful that we can continue moving forward and it can become a reality sooner rather than later.
Is Greg Hardy playing this year?
Not to my knowledge. I hope he plays tomorrow, though.
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