Kennedy, Rebels Hold Preseason Press Conference
Reginald Buckner (photo by David Coyle)

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Oct. 13, 2011

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy and returning starters Reginald Buckner, Terrance Henry and Nick Williams addressed the media Thursday prior to the start of preseason camp on Friday.

The Rebels are coming off their fourth 20-win campaign and fourth postseason berth in the last five seasons after posting a 20-14 record and appearing in the NIT last year.

Ole Miss opens the 2011-12 season on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Monroe. The team hosts a free exhibition game on Nov. 3 versus North Alabama.

Below is a transcript of Kennedy’s comments at Thursday’s preseason press conference.

Opening comments:
“It's hard to believe that it is this time again. We are excited to get started. We have a pretty interesting mix of the old with the new. We return six guys who donned the Rebel uniform last year. Five of those six were in our top eight players. We have seven newcomers. There are five freshman and a transfer, Jelan Kendrick, who has been in the program since last January. Obviously there are unusual circumstances that involve Murphy Holloway. He was in our program for two years and now he is back. We still have not gotten any indication as to what the next step is in his process. We expect to hear something soon. Our guys have been tremendous up until this point as far as putting in the time, energy and focus that is necessary to get us here. Now I am excited to get my hands on them every day starting tomorrow and see where this team can go.”

On the start of practice and Reginald Buckner:
“Things have changed tremendously. It used to be about Midnight Madness and all the hype that surrounded that because no one had the opportunity to be with the entire team. Now there are two hours a week where you can have your whole group together and we have had that opportunity for a little over a month now. Today we are going to take advantage of that and have our eighth team workout. I have a pretty good feel about this group going into the official start of practice on Friday. I have been very pleased with Reg. He is a junior now and it is his time. He has certainly showed us what he is capable of doing. Now we need him to do it on a consistent basis. As you look around, all the guys that he and Terrance Henry were dependent upon in the past are gone. Now they are the upperclassmen and they have to lead this group, especially in the frontcourt. We are going to have to lean heavily on Reggie, Terrance, Nick Williams and guys who have been through this before who can help charter the course.”

On the new faces of the backcourt:
“I think the thing I am most excited about is the versatility they bring. We have size, and we have more size in our back court than ever before. As good as Chris Warren was in most every facet of the game, we never could find a formula for him to grow. He was 5'10” when he got here and he was the same height when he left. Immediately we have Jarvis Summers who comes in at 6'3” on his way to being 6'4” with about a 6'8” wingspan. We have LaDarius White who is 6'6” with a 6'11” wingspan and Jelan Kendrick at 6'7”. If you couple them with Maurice Anieflok at 6'5” and Nick Williams at 6'4” we have more size in our backcourt than we have ever had. It is going to allow us to do things differently than we ever have, especially defensively. There were times when we were overmatched physically in our backcourt and I do not think that will be the case this year. I am excited about the versatility of the group first and foremost. There will be times where I can foresee a lineup of guys, none of whom are under 6'6”- 6'7”. This will give us a lot of versatility on the ways in which we defend things. There is no question that as this team continues to develop, evolve and its identity becomes clearer, we will have the ability to do things in a vastly different way than we did in the past.”

On the status of Murphy Holloway:
“There are direct channels that you have to go through, and I have no communication with anyone. I am going through our people. I do not anticipate there being any issue. We were told we would know something going into this Friday, which still may be the case. In any regard I think that everybody is working together to try and get this resolved. I am trying not to obsess about it. Obviously, I could let it consume me. What I am trying to do is prepare as if he is going to be with us when we tip off. I am sure we will know well in advance of that what his status will be.”

On playing time for freshmen:
“Based on the fact that the two guys who led us in minutes last year were Chris Warren and Zach Graham, around 35 and 32 minutes a game respectively, allows for a huge opportunity that presents itself in our backcourt. Dundrecous Nelson and Nick Williams are the only two guys in our backcourt who are returning with any Division I experience. All of those young guys are going to have ample opportunity and I need them to step up. What I have seen so far, I have been very pleased with. We have a mature freshman group. Physically, they do not look like freshmen and mentally their approach has been consistent, which is typically not what you get out of freshmen.”

On Murphy Holloway's game:
“He is bigger and stronger. A lot of times we forget that these kids are still kids. They look like men, but they are still kids. They are 17, 18 and 19 years old. Murphy left us as a sophomore. Now he comes back as a fourth-year junior and is developing into a man. Physically what he can bring to our program goes without saying. As a kid with all the stars, bells and whistles, we know what he can give us. We have seen him get 20 rebounds in an SEC game. We have seen him have multiple double-doubles. He was on pace when he left here as a sophomore to be the all-time leading rebounder in our program. Obviously, his value is unquestioned.”

On filling voids from last year:
“Last year Chris Warren was such a focal point of what we did offensively. His numbers speak for themselves. Chris was one of only four players in SEC history to score over 2,000 points and have over 400 assists. We will most certainly miss him, especially at the end of the shot clock because he was able to go and make plays. This team will be different in that void of losing our two leading scorers last year in Chris and Zach. Zach ended up being over 1,000 points and averaged about 14 points a game in his career. We lose about 32-33 points per game out of that back court. It allows other guys to fill voids. Dundrecous Nelson showed last year that he is capable and very talented. I have said from day one that you see the biggest improvement in the level of play in guys between years one and two. Dundrecous is just a sophomore and got a lot of experience last year. We need him to be consistent. He is probably in the best shape of his life physically, which is going to allow him to play more minutes and be more productive. He is certainly going to be able to put the ball in the basket, which he proved last year. Terrance Henry is going to be a guy who as a senior has more experience than anybody in our program. Over the last seven or eight games last season, I believe he was around 13 points a game and seven or eight rebounds. That is what we need from him from day one. We need Reggie to take that next step from a productive standpoint so that these new guys are not asked to do things that they are not ready to do early.”

On Nick Williams:
“Nick needs to be a guy that makes open shots. He needs to guard his position. I sometimes refer to him as a utility infielder. We need to be able to put him in a lot of different positions. He has to be versatile for us and be consistent. One of the things that I had to catch myself last year from forgetting was that it was his first year in our program. He sat out a year and was going from one program at Indiana to us. He was also making a huge transition as it related to his position. He played more of the 3-4 at Indiana because they had a lack of size. He came here and we were trying to develop him into a straight wing. Being his first year in the program, going through some of the highs and lows and us being dependent on him at that position showed some inconsistency. I think he would be the first to admit that. Nick has always been a vocal leader and a high energy guy. His attitude has never been questioned. He has been helpful as we are trying to usher in the six new guys as far as what it takes to be successful at this level. He has been instrumental in giving us leadership in that regard.”

On Demarco Cox:
“I raved about him last year and I never put him in the game. I love the kid. He is the kind of kid you want to see be successful because he works so hard. He came to us at 321 pounds and is now down to around 276-278 depending on lunch. He is running, jumping and is able to move at the pace you have to in order to be successful in the SEC. There is no question that he is going to get an opportunity to help this team this year. He has earned that right. I believe he can bring us something that we haven't had in a couple of years. He has a Dwayne Curtis type of ability to score with angles inside. Because of his size and athleticism defensively, he is going to be able to do things that allow him to stay on the floor.”

On the frontcourt:
“It is still so early that we still need to find out what is in the best interest of this group. If we can develop where we can get Terrance most of his minutes at the 3 position, we are going to be very big along our front line. Terrance has always been a hybrid player. He played a lot of 3-4, but most of his time has been at the 4 position because that's where his opportunity was. Now, with the loss of our backcourt, there is more opportunity away from the basket. We are trying to allow him to get the majority of his minutes at the 3 spot. A lot of that depends on what happens with Murphy and how Demarco develops, along with Steadman Short. We have not talked a lot about Stead. It is unfortunate that he suffered a stress fracture and we are trying to be pretty cautious because it is in a sensitive area. We don't want it to be reoccurring throughout the course of the year. He has done nothing basketball-wise since school started. Our hope is that the injury will continue to heal at its current pace and that we will have him back in two or three weeks so that he does not miss any game action. He is a guy that gave us 16-17 minutes last year, and pardon the pun, but Steadman was very steady. He is not going to jump off the page and is going to be solid for you. Again, it is only his second year in the program and we were counting on him taking the next step. Unfortunately, he has not had the opportunity to do that based on the injury. We will see where he goes. One of the other freshmen that got the least amount of attention coming is a guy named Aaron Jones. He is a guy that we are excited about. He turned 18 at the end of June and is very young. He is 6'8” on his way to 6'10”. Every time I see him I think he has grown a quarter of an inch. He is about 215 pounds and is on his way to being 240 pounds once things are said and done. He has an incredible motor, and early on if you were to ask our staff who surprised them the most, they would probably say Aaron Jones and the way that he has approached this season. He is a kid that is going to be fighting for minutes as well. All of the sudden you look up and you have five guys that you feel like you can play on your front line. This will allow Terrance to extend away from the basket and at 6'9” play in the 3 spot. That is size along our front line that we have not had in a long time.”

On Steadman Short's injury:
“He injured his shin. We don't know when it happened, but it was discovered in August right at the end of the summer session. He went home and the stress when he came back was not where we had hoped it would be. We have been taking precautions, and he has done nothing basketball related since he has been back at school.”

On new assistant coaches:
“They have been great. I moved Bill Armstrong, who has been with me as my right hand man for a long time, up to assistant. That has been a seamless transition for him. He has earned that right and has done a great job. I brought in Al Pinkins when Mike White and Owen Miller got opportunities to be head coaches. He is a guy that played in the front line of an ACC program at NC State. He has been tremendous in what he has been able to impact on a day-to-day basis with developing our big men. Sergio Rouco has brought a different perspective in that he has been a head coach. From a recruiting standpoint he opens up an avenue to us that we have not bad before in the international scene. Sometimes you do not realize how much you do not know as an assistant. You think you know, but you really don't know. He has been a head coach and has been through things. He lends me a different perspective that I think has been favorable.”

On conference realignment:
“I haven't thought too much about that. This year we are getting away from the east/west divisions anyway, though the schedules remain the same because of timing. That decision was not made until the spring at spring meetings when most of the schedules were set. There has been a lot of banter going around with what is going to happen moving forward. I have confidence in the leadership in this league, and I am sure that the right things will be addressed. I do not put a lot of thought into whether it is going to be 13 or 14 teams, who are they going to be and how are they going to be scheduled. I do not really worry about those things.”

On Jarvis Summers at point guard:
“I see him getting an opportunity there. He is a kid that approaches things on a day-to-day basis and handles his business in the right way. Typically with freshmen you have to worry about them. They are off catching butterflies every other day. It’s like Groundhog Day, we have to coach the same things over and over again with the freshmen. With Jarvis we do not have to do that. He has an immediate ability to lead and has always been a leader. He has a toughness and an edge to him. He is going to have a great opportunity in that lead guard role for us early in the season. What he does with that is up to him. He is certainly going to have opportunities early because that is where the void is, and Jelan will not be able to play until after the first semester.”

On the non-conference schedule:
“It is hard for me to believe that a month from tomorrow we open against Louisiana-Monroe. We have two home games before our tournament in St. Thomas where we play three games in four days. Last year we did a tournament around Christmas, but I like to do it earlier because I think it give you an opportunity to bond and figure things out about your team in a different environment. The field in St. Thomas is stacked. We are in the same bracket as Marquette, which is a top-25 caliber team out of the Big East. Virginia is supposed to have their best team in quite some time on the other side of the bracket along with a handful of others. We come back and quickly turn to play a Miami team that had their way with us last year in Coral Gables. They are supposed to be in the top 3-4 in the ACC. We go to DePaul in Chicago as a part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. Then we have a game against another BCS opponent in Penn State. All of those are games that Jelan will not be able to play in because they are before the end of the first semester. After exams he will be able to join the team and we go to Southern Miss for the first time in forever. It is the fifth and final year of our initial deal with them. We are playing in Hattiesburg and then going back and playing in Southaven against a Middle Tennessee team that is predicted to be very good on their side of their league. We have a lot of challenges leading into SEC play, as is typically the case. We open SEC play on the road as we usually do, and by then we will have a pretty good feel about who are.”

On Dundrecous Nelson:
“At the end of the season last year, the last six of seven games, we started Chris and Dundrecous together. The problem that posed was with our size. They are both under six feet tall. Playing Jarvis Summers with his wingspan and Dundrecous together allows us to cover more and have more versatility defensively. I do not question that Dundrecous is a shoot first, shoot second or shoot third guy. We are going to try to put him in a position where he can do what he does best. Sometimes that will be with the ball and sometimes it will be without it. It is similar to what we did with Chris. I felt comfortable when the ball was in his hands, but also his ability to score was through a lot of base-line screening. I think that Dundrecous will be advantageous in that role as well. We have talked about his role and the ways in which he can help this team. He has a special ability, very similar to James “Hollywood” Robinson. Both are from Murrah High School in Jackson. Anytime James wanted to shoot he thought it was a good idea. Sometimes, Dundrecous thinks that. He can get his shot off against anybody, but just because he can get it off does not mean it is a good shot as it relates to our perspective. That is something we are trying to get him to grow into. He is guy that if he can get into great physical shape he will be a great physical scorer. There are not many 20-point-a-game players in this league anymore. Maybe you will get a 20-point guy here or there. Dundrecous has the potential to be one of those guys because of his explosive abilities to score. We have to channel it in the proper direction. Chris Warren was the opposite of Dundrecous when he first came here. We had to channel him in the other direction. Chris was cognizant of the fact that we developed a system around what we felt was in his best interest and in the best interest of our team's skill set. Dundrecous is different. He is so strong. What people do not realize is that Chris was pound for pound one of the strongest guys on our team last year; however, he never got above 170 pounds. Dundrecous is a whole different animal. He is a little taller and he is so much stronger. Last year he played at around 200 pounds. This offseason we got him down around 190 pounds. He is strong, explosive and has unlimited potential.”

On LaDarius White:
“There is a clearinghouse issue that needs to be resolved. We still do not know how it relates to us from a game/competition standpoint. It may be down the road before we know anything. Without getting into all the specifics, that is still a little bit of a gray area.”

On not having a Midnight Madness event at Ole Miss:
“It used to be the in-vogue thing to do because Midnight Madness literally was that. As the clock struck midnight on the fourteenth of October because the fifteenth you could practice. Television has changed this. They now do some TV stuff and show some promotional stuff at 5:00. I am not sure if that is in the best interest of where we are right now as a program. That is a workday for us, and we are going to make sure it is productive.”


 

 

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