BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Ole Miss men's head basketball coach Andy Kennedy and women's basketball first year head coach Matt Insell, traveled to Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday to meet and talk with members of the media as part of the SEC's annual basketball media days.
Last year, Kennedy led Ole Miss to its second SEC Tournament title, a school record-tying 27 wins and the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 en route to SEC Coach of the Year honors. Insell enters his first campaign with the Rebels after five seasons at Kentucky, where he helped helped guide the Wildcats to four 20-win seasons and four trips to the NCAA Tournament in his time in Lexington.
Below are quotes from both coaches and men's player, junior Jarvis Summers and women's player, senior Valencia McFarland. Video interview can be found by clicking on the link at the top of the page.
On preseason predictions... "It's odd for me, personally, to think of October 15th being the start of college basketball season. We've been going at it for a couple of weeks now, which has been advantageous for us as we've been trying to incorporate a number of new guys. It's a little odd, though, because we've kind of hit a little bit of a wall. The grind has got us, and I start looking up and thinking normally after about two weeks! When you're preparing for an exhibition game, you're going to have the opportunity to play someone else, [and] may be we need that. We're still a week or so away, but I've been really pleased with the approach, [and] I've been really pleased with the way in which our guys come to practice every day."
On the SEC Tournament being back in Nashville after this season... "I think it's about the 1500th best thing that our commissioner has done that has been absolutely right. I think it's great to have a central location. I think Atlanta has been great to the league, but when you take it to a place where people know that each and every year, here's where the tournament is going to be...Nashville is a great area and has done a great job hosting the event."
On the breakthrough to the NCAA Tournament last year and how the roster change will affect tournament berth this year... "It means a lot, because for my last two years we've been trying so hard, and came up short every year. Seeing our name be called last year was just a blessing. We've got a lot of young guys, but we've got all of our returning guards from last year. It's basically going to come from me, Marshall [Henderson], Snoop [LaDarius White] and A.J [Aaron Jones]... just the older guys until the younger guys come along. We've just got to build the leadership."
On level of play with the new freshmen... "Sebastian [Saiz] and Dwight [Coleby] are coming along real well. They are practicing hard and listening, but they just have to get the feel of the game."
On taking over his own program... "Being in this league and coaching in this league has really helped me in terms of knowing things that we need to do, and things that work and that won't work. I'm very fortunate to have that experience in the league. But taking over my own program, it's a big adjustment, but it's an adjustment I've prepared for and something I've worked hard for in terms of preparing myself and getting ready for this and surrounding myself with people like Matthew Mitchell, who has been a big influence on me and helping me get ready for this position. I'm excited about where we're at as a team, [and] I'm excited about where we're at as a program right now, and we're looking at moving forward."
On the style of play he's implemented in the program... "I'm very pleased where we're at right now as a team. I didn't know what to expect, I've only seen Ole Miss play one time last season. I didn't have their scout. I've been watching a lot of tape on Ole Miss. It was a situation coming in that I was new to them, and they were new to me. So, I've been very pleased where we're at in the six months that I've been there. I think we're a better basketball team then where we were six months ago. I think we have a chance to do some things very good this season. They've really bought into what we're doing defensively."
On the transition with a new head coach... "It's been different because the style that he wants to play is up-tempo and he wants us to push the ball every possession. It's different than last year because we kind of slowed the ball down a little bit, but this year is going to be more up-tempo."
On the advantage the team will have against Kentucky, a staff on which Insell formerly worked... "I think it will give us an advantage because he knows the players there and how they play. With us, we'll know how to defend against them, and it'll be an advantage for us."
On her overall goals for this season... "For me, it's just to lead my team to as many wins as we can get. Our main goal as a team is to finish in the top of the SEC and make it to the NCAA tournament."
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