Andy Kennedy Press Conference: 10.16

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Nick Williams
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Nick Williams
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 16, 2012

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and seniors Reginald Buckner, Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams met with the media on Tuesday and talked about the upcoming season. Below are Kennedy's comments. 

Andy Kennedy

On getting started:

“It’s hard to believe that it’s October 16th already; time truly does fly. I’m excited about this group. Anytime you return four of five starters and seven of your top nine it’s not a bad place to start. It’s the most experience frontline in the SEC. It’s the most experienced team I’ve ever coached in my tenure here. We felt like we addressed some of the definite needs we had off of last year’s team by bringing in six newcomers. I caught a little bit of what the players were saying, and I think they’re right. The new guys have integrated themselves into what we’re trying to get accomplished about as smoothly as possible. We have two guys who have been through division one practices before in Marshall (Henderson) and Jason Carter and it helps. The four freshmen have been outstanding. Not only following the lead of our upperclassmen, but also really taking some initiative. One week into it, I am pleased. We have to continue to grow and figure out our identity as we approach November.”

On the impact that getting extra practice time over the summer has made:

“It has been invaluable when you talk about six of your thirteen scholarship players being first year guys. We had all of them except Anthony Perez, who was with the Venezuelan national team, in June and July. It was great for us to get an opportunity to interact with them on the floor, to see how they respond to coaching and to put them in different situations. We were much further ahead as we approached August. Now we’ve been on the floor in a team capacity for about a month leading into Friday night before we could start officially. We feel like we have a pretty good grasp on the different skill sets that this group brings. This group is different from any that I’ve had here in the fact that each and every player is different. I’m not sure any two fit in the same category. You’ve got a Jarvis Summers who had a tremendous freshman year. He’s really poised to have a great sophomore season. He plays in a way that you are very familiar with. He’s a game manager. He’s a big point guard at 6-3, about 185 (lbs.) He’s not a volume score, but he’s a percentage shooter at three. He led us at about 43 percent. He came up huge for us time and time again. It’s a difficult situation when you ask a true freshman to lead your team. Then we brought in Derrick Millinghaus, who is the polar opposite. He’s a 5-10 jet. He brings a speed and athleticism to that position. It will be a great compliment to Jarvis. It brings a lot of different pieces and now we’re just in the process to see how they all fit.”

On the sense of urgency for the seniors: 

“These guys are typical of seniors. Last year’s senior class was pretty small in Terrance Henry and Steadman Short. Unfortunately at this time last year Steadman was hurt a little bit like Bear (Demarco Cox) with a stress fracture that put him a little bit behind. Unfortunately, he never got healthy. Terrance definitely had a sense of urgency. He wanted the three juniors Nick (Williams), Murph (Murphy Holloway) and Reg (Reginald Buckner) to have that same sense of urgency. They couldn’t get it, but now they get it. Those three guys understand that each and everyday is the last opportunity for them to do what they came here to do. There is a true sense of urgency. Nick Williams is probably in the best shape physically of his life. Every single day I see him in that gym working. He realizes that the clock is ticking on him, and he’s going to prepare himself to have a great senior year. Murph physically is over the injuries now. You saw him, he looks great. Cardiovascular wise, he’s probably in the best shape that he’s been in since he’s been here. I hear him speak a little bit on Reg, and I’m glad that he sees that. Reg is a guy that has unlimited potential. He’s a very talented guy and one of the all-time leading shot blocker in the history of the program going into his senior year. He’s been battling some injuries as well. We cleaned his knees up again last year, which is allowing him to go harder for longer. He’s gotten himself in shape. He hasn’t missed a day. I’m proud of the way that he’s matured in his ability to sustain energy and effort for longer periods. When you talk about those three guys, you’re talking about two fifth-year seniors. You’re talking about the first and second leading returning rebounders in our league. You’re talking about the best returning shot blocker in our league. It’s an experienced, productive front line. We’re going to be dependent upon those guys to produce for us early, while everybody else figures it out.”

On this year’s team:

“Last year, the biggest struggle that we had was we coached three different teams. We had the team that we started the season with, we added Jelan (Kendrick) and Snoop (LaDarius White) at the break which was the same time Murphy had the injury against Middle Tennessee and then we had the situation with Dundrecous (Nelson) and Jamal (Jones). We had devised a game plan that we had to adjust and adjust again. It’s easier said than done when you get into the rigors of league play. To our guys’ credit, we found a way to win games and give ourselves a chance. That was the grind mentality. This team has to continue to grind. We just have more weapons. We score the ball a little easier. We’ve got different guys that can do different things. We hope as a result of that, it gives us a greater margin of error then we had last year.”

On starting the season fast:

“It’s important to get off to a good start in order to build momentum. This year is a little different because the first six are in Tad Smith (Coliseum), which is the first time in my tenure that our first six have been at home. We don’t leave Mississippi in the month of November. With that I hope that we can garner some momentum and give these guys a chance.”

On what Anthony Perez brings to the team:

“Because he was not on the national recruiting radar since he didn’t play AAU basketball, a lot of people have categorized him as a power forward. He is not a power forward. He is a straight wing. As a matter of fact, he would be our third point guard. He’s 6-9 on his way to 6-10. He’s about 200 pounds and can really shoot the ball. He’s very athletic and tenacious. He has a chance to be a tremendous player. Physically, he has some gains that he has to make. Sometimes he gets overpowered when he gets in traffic. He brings a skill set that a lot of people want to compare to Terrance. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a primary point guard, but he has those types of abilities. He brings us something that we haven’t had because of his size on the perimeter. I’ve got seven guys right now that could play. If you ask my staff, my three assistants and myself to rank them one through seven, you’d get four different rankings. That shows you how tight the competition is. As a result it has made us better.”

On working the new guys into the rotation:

“A lot of that will develop as we get into it. Right now everybody is playing and we’re getting a lot of practice reps. Things change when you go from this square building to the round building down the block. Shots that go in here sometimes don’t go in over there. That separation will take care of itself, I assure you.”

On Reginald Buckner’s ability:

“He’s physically very, very gifted. You’re talking about a kid that’s 6-9 with a seven foot wingspan. He’s 243 pounds and he has a legit 40 inch vertical. He can be as good as he wants to be. The thing that I’ve been the most impressed with is offensively he’s come by leaps and bound. He’s a very good passer. He plays out of the mid-post, and we’re trying to play through him as much as possible. He’s energy has been tremendous. I bet he’s dunked more balls through the first four or five practices then he did all of last year. He’s very active. That points to the fact that he’s playing pain free for the first time in a while. As Murphy alluded to, he does have a senior sense of urgency that we hope continues.”

On the injury status of Demarco Cox:

“He’s still probably two, three or four weeks away. He has a stress reaction in his foot. Because he’s such a big guy, we went ahead and took the doctor’s advice and put a screw in. We’re four weeks today from that surgery. This is something that can reoccur if the healing is not where we need it to be. We’re going to play it very slowly and make sure that he’s healed prior to him getting back. At 280 pounds it doesn’t take much to reinjure that foot. I hate it for him. This kid works so hard. He was probably in the best physical shape of his life. Now he’ll probably four to six weeks behind. He can still do some stuff. He’s tough physically and mentally. He’ll bounce back.”

On Marshall Henderson:

“He brings the ability to make shots. He brings the ability to space the floor. He’s a guy that can extend you out to about 25 feet. He’s made shots in division one games before. I’m more excited about that than I am about any of the things that he did at the junior college level, which was lead his team to an undefeated national championship while being the player of the year. It was obviously a pretty good year for him. Here’s a guy that got 13 (points) a game in Mountain West play as a freshman at Utah. He’s been in big environments and on national TV. He’s been in front of 20,000 fans that were booing him, he’s been there done that. We hope the transition for him is a lot easier as we get into these games. Spacing is probably the biggest thing that he brings. You have to guard him. If you look at Murphy and Reggie, they’re guys that are not back-to-block, power guys. They’re athletes that need angles. Last year it was difficult for them to move because everybody had it packed in so tight on us so we were unable to be consistent from the perimeter. Marshall alleviates some of that.”

On moving players around in rotation:

“We’re going to play with a point guard. Two and three, four and five are interchangeable. The things that we do offensively depending on where the ball is, they’re both going to have the same responsibilities. It doesn’t matter who you guard. When AJ (Aaron Jones) is in the game with Murphy, AJ will guard the bigger of the two. We will just mix and match it based of defensive matchups.”

On the expanded league:

“SEC basketball is poised for a great year. The few polls that have come out to this point, there are only four teams in the top 20. Kentucky can be tremendous. Tennessee had a terrific run. They’re returning the nucleus of that team. Florida will also be very good. Missouri won 30 games last year. They lost a couple of guys, but on the preseason all-league ballots they still have two of the top three or four guys in the league. I’ve never been to Columbia, but I look forward to the opportunity to play there. They’re going to be tremendous. Texas A&M was a little bit of a blip because of injuries. Prior to last year they had been to four or five straight tournaments. They’re definitely two teams that will help the make up SEC basketball. Out of our leagues fourteen teams, we’ll get half of our teams in the tournament.”

On thoughts of only four or five SEC teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament:

“There’s so much that’s going to change. We’re going to have plenty of opportunities. We’re going to have Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M all coming through Oxford, Miss. Us playing Tennessee and Missouri twice and Florida on the road, there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for us to garner quality wins against quality opponents. We’ve just got to be ready for that challenge.”

On non-conference matchups:

“It’s probably the most difficult non-league schedule that I’ve ever had to put together. Every year, we knew in SEC play who we were going to play and where we were going to play them. We just didn’t know when. Even though we got away from divisions last year, it was still scheduled on east-west parameter. This year as we were putting together our non-league we didn’t know. We knew we would have 18 league games, but we didn’t know who, where or when.  It made it difficult. We will certainly have challenges. We’re going to have a Rutgers team come in here for the Big East Challenge. We knew we were going to have a home game, but we didn’t know who we were going to play. We’re going to Middle Tennessee State and Loyola Marymount, which will be difficult games. We’re going to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. San Diego State is in almost everyone’s top 15. Arizona is in most people’s top 10. Miami is in the top 25 in a lot of polls. They’re all in that field. There will certainly be challenges for us early. With our first six at home, it gives us an opportunity to garner some positive momentum.”

 

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