Oct. 24, 2012
Entering his seventh year as Ole Miss' head coach, Andy Kennedy knows what it takes to win in the SEC - experience and talent. And with a wealth of experience returning and talented newcomers dotting the roster, the Rebels have what it takes this year.
Ole Miss returns four starters from last year's squad, including three senior starters in Reginald Buckner, Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams, and added an outstanding signing class including the National Junior College Player of the Year in Marshall Henderson.
"We preach leadership and we want our guys to take ownership of our team," said Kennedy, who is Ole Miss' all-time leader with seven postseason victories. "We've got three seniors, two of which are very vocal by nature in Murphy and Nick. We want them to use that in a way that it provides leadership for our newcomers. You have to have talent in order to be successful at this level and experienced talent is what we all strive for."
Holloway, an All-SEC second team pick a year ago, leads Ole Miss' frontcourt and is the team's leading returning scorer (11.2 ppg) and rebounder (9.0 rpg). He currently ranks ninth in school history with 743 career rebounds and teams up Buckner, a two-time SEC All-Defensive team selection, to give the Rebels a formidable force inside. Buckner, Ole Miss' career block shots leader, enters this season ranked sixteenth in SEC history with 228 career blocks. Adding to the Rebels' experienced frontline is Williams, who started 32 games last year and averaged 11.8 points per game in conference play.
"This year is the first time I've returned three seniors that are all returning starters - two of which are fifth-year guys - in Murphy, who spent one year at South Carolina, and Nick, who transferred in from Indiana," said Kennedy, who ranks sixth in SEC history with 125 wins in his first six seasons. "We probably have the most experienced front line in the SEC, when you talk about Murphy, Reggie and Nick, who plays the majority of his time at the small forward position."
Junior center Demarco Cox also returns for Ole Miss up front after starting nine games last year and averaging 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Adding to the Rebels' depth along the front line is returning sophomore Aaron Jones (1.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg), junior college transfer Jason Carter and prep standout Terry Brutus.
"Demarco played about 15 minutes a game for us last year," Kennedy said. "He is down to about 270 pounds now and is in the best physical shape of his life. He is ready to take the next step in being a real contributor to our front line. A.J. really came on at the end of last year. He's grown to 6-9, 215 and he is a very active, athletic body around the rim. It's his sophomore year and he's ready to get into the rotation and help our frontcourt.
"Jason Carter started his career at Alabama, so he had already been in D-I practices and games. He is 6-8, 238 and very different than what we have on our front line with his ability to stretch the defense out to the three-point line. Terry Brutus at 6-6, 240 is a very physical, athletic presence, whose quickness and ball skills give us a variety of options along our front court."
Ole Miss' backcourt, while not boasting the senior presence of the front line, still returns the talented sophomore duo of Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White. Summers started the final 30 games for the Rebels at point guard last year and closed out the season strong averaging 14.5 points per game over the last six contests. White averaged 11.8 points per game over his final five games including a season-high 25 points in the season finale versus Illinois State.
"I'm excited about our backcourt," Kennedy said. "Jarvis now has a better understanding of what it takes on a day-to-day basis to be successful at this level. He did a tremendous job for us last year stabilizing our backcourt. Snoop is a guy that really came on towards the end of the year. He made huge improvements in his body and approach in the off-season, and we are looking for a breakout year in year two."
Despite returning 67.2 percent of its scoring from a year ago, Ole Miss must still replace leading scorer Terrance Henry (12.5 ppg). To fill the void the Rebels brought in several talented newcomers, including National Junior College Player of the Year Marshall Henderson and prep standouts Derrick Millinghaus, Anthony Perez and Martavious Newby.
"We obviously lost Terrance, who played most of his time at the small forward," Kennedy said. "That's probably where we've had the greatest infusion of new guys. Marshall Henderson was the Junior College Player of the Year and you expect him to be able to come in a little bit older, wiser and stronger. I'm really excited about the fact that he's played in D-1 games and made shots against division one people. He averaged close to 13 points per game at Utah. He's a guy that we expect to make the transition to SEC play more readily.
"We also signed Anthony, Derrick and Martavious, and all three of those guys bring different skill sets to our backcourt. Newby is a 6-3 version of Murphy Holloway in that he's always around the ball and makes plays. He can help us in any three of the backcourt positions. He's a tough competitor who physically has a chance to make an impact from day one at this level. Anthony is a 6-9 wing with the ability to stretch the D out to three. His versatility is probably his greatest calling card and that will give him the opportunity to play early. Derrick brings us speed at the point guard position. He is an attacking player that can create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates off of the dribble. He will be a complement to Jarvis and give us a 1-2 punch with the ball."
The Rebels' coaching staff remains intact this season after adding three new assistant prior to last season. Sergio Rouco, Al Pinkins and Bill Armstrong give the Ole Miss program continuity heading into this season.
"Bill has been with me since day one and when we brought on Sergio and Al it was a learning process for everybody," Kennedy said. "When you go into a second year there is a much greater sense of familiarity with what is expected. As a result, it allows everybody to get on task much more easily."
Ole Miss tips off the 2012-13 campaign on Nov. 9 versus NCAA participant Mississippi Valley State, while the always tough Southeastern Conference action begins Jan. 9 at Tennessee.
"Our non-conference schedule is set up to prepare us for the rigors of SEC play," Kennedy said. "Each team we face will bring a different style of play that will challenge our team in a variety of ways. Our conference is one of the toughest leagues in America and it only gets better this year with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. Each and every night is a battle - that's life in the SEC."
2012-13 REBEL BREAKDOWN
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