Oct. 21, 2010
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Ole Miss basketball head coaches Andy Kennedy and Renee Ladner, along with senior point guards Chris Warren and Kayla Melson, met with media Thursday at the SEC Basketball Media Day in Birmingham.
Kennedy's Rebels are coming off a 24-11 campaign in which they won an SEC West title and advanced to the NIT Semifinals. Led by Warren, a preseason All-SEC first team selection, the team has goals of building on that success in 2010-11.
Ladner guided the Ole Miss women's team to its sixth postseason appearance in the last seven years with a WNIT berth last year. She will count on Melson, who led the SEC in assists last season, as a veteran anchor for a young Rebel squad in 2010-11.
Below is a partial transcript of the Ole Miss representatives at the SEC Basketball Media Day:
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss Men's Head Coach
Thoughts on the team
"I like our team. We have an eclectic mix of old and new. We have six players that have started in an SEC game and six players that have never put an Ole Miss uniform on before. With that, we have the pieces though. As you examine our roster, we have leadership in the backcourt with Chris Warren. He has been through the wars of this league and has an opportunity to join an elite group if he has his usual season. He could become the fourth player in SEC history to amass 2,000 points and 400 assists. He understands this is it for him and has become much more vocal in his leadership responsibilities. You throw in a guy like Zach Graham who is a glue guy along with Trevor Gaskins. We have guys in the front court that are potential all-league players before they are done. It's not a bad place to start where you mix the new guys with the old."
"There was a lot of talk last year about how Chris (Warren) and Terrico (White) would co-exist. There were times in big moments last year that they would look at each other and wonder who should take the shot. We don't have that issue this year. It is clear cut who our leader is. There has been no resistance to that. Chris has become more vocal around the team and has a better understanding of what we are trying to do. He has to be vocal because the players are the ones that uphold the standard that has been set."
On making the tournament
"As a coach you want to go into the month of March controlling your own destiny. Three of the four years we've been in that position and have not gotten it done. This team we constantly preach consistency. If you have a bad weekend, much less a bad week or an untimely injury you will find yourself looking on the outside in."
Renee Ladner, Ole Miss Women's Head Coach
On the return of Kayla Melson and Nikki Byrd
"It's the key. They're the only two players returning with actual game experience. I have eight new players and 10 total on this roster. If those two don't play, then we're going to play a young team and see what happens."
New coaching skills developed over the offseason
"I've had to learn patience and not to put too much on them too soon. But at the same time, teach them through adversity. In this league, tough is not enough, and you have to compete at the highest level every night. My two returners are thinking this is the hardest they've ever had it. At the same time, we have the most areas to catch up in and learn it fast. We're teaching lessons very quickly and we have to hold them accountable to a higher standard. We're young and inexperienced, but there's no team in the country working harder than this group of players."
On her incoming freshmen
"They don't know any different, which is great, so they're working hard everyday. They're winners and they came from great high school programs. But the intensity, physicality and speed have definitely stepped up. They have to adjust to the new skills they're learning."
On her contract extension
"Absolute relief. It helps me to know that I'm supported by this program. I have a very supportive administration and they think we're going in the right direction. It also gives you confidence and composure, and helps your team to feel wanted and to feel supported as well."
Chris Warren, Ole Miss, Sr., G
Thoughts on the upcoming season
"This is my last year so I worked even harder to be successful. This is my fourth year and we haven't made t he NCAA tournament yet, so that is the biggest priority. We lost some guys, but we have guys that are working hard and ready to play."
His role as a leader
"I have to speak up more and what I say has to be important to get guys' attention. When I say something, guys definitely listen."
Thoughts on the newcomers
"Teaching them plays and getting the fundamentals down on how we run the offense and what we do on defense are most important right now. Once we do that everything else will come."
On Coach Kennedy's talk with him in the offseason
"I have one more year and if we don't make it to the NCAA tournament what have I done? We talked more about what extra work I could do to get us in the tournament. He wants me to be more vocal and work harder than I ever have before."
Kayla Melson, Ole Miss, Sr., G
Thoughts on the upcoming season
"Since the team has a lot of freshmen this year, it's about our determination to compete with those teams that are ranked ahead of us. Our mindset is to play hard, put everything out on the court, and eventually good things will happen to us."
Preparation during the offseason
"We're just trying to get the freshmen adjusted to the college life and get them situated. We're having to teach them new terminology and certain aspects of the team. Most importantly, we're trying to stay in shape because we're a lean team this year. In order to compete at the highest level, we have to work out hard everyday in order to be the best team on that court."
Her role as a leader
"It's a big role for me that I have to play. My job is to mold these freshmen into the best players on the court, and let them know I'm here for them. I want them to understand that I want to lead this team, and hopefully my leadership skills can develop as the season progresses."