EXHIBITION: Ole Miss vs. North Alabama
October 31, 2008 4 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live Radio: N/A
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
OLE MISS WELCOMES UNA FOR EARLY EXHIBITION
It’s not yet November, but basketball season has “unofficially” arrived. Ole Miss hosts a special Halloween edition of exhibition hoops with a matchup against NCAA Division II power North Alabama at 4 p.m. on Friday. All fans will be admitted free of charge. The Rebels and Lions last faced off in a preseason exhibition on Nov. 3, 2006. Ole Miss earned a 108-103 victory on that date, which was Andy Kennedy’s first game on the Rebel bench. Five Rebels scored in double figures in that contest, led by Bam Doyne’s 21 points. Friday’s game marks the lone home exhibition of the preseason.
The regular season will tip off in two weeks when the Rebels welcome former LSU head coach John Brady and his Arkansas State Red Wolves to Tad Smith Coliseum on Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.
The Ole Miss women's basketball team will be signing autographs and meeting with fans starting at 3 p.m. in the concourse of Tad Smith Coliseum prior to the men's exhibition at 4 p.m. The men will be visiting with fans and signing autographs following the game.
EXPECTATIONS BUILDING FOR REBEL PROGRAM
With Ole Miss coming off its second straight season of 20 or more wins, as well as an appearance in the 2008 NIT Final Four in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the programs expecatations continue to rise as Andy Kennedy and his staff enter their third year at the helm.
Kennedy is the fourth coach in league history to amass 45 or more wins in his first two seasons at an SEC school, and last year’s 24 wins were the second-highest total in Ole Miss history.
For the first time since Kennedy’s arrival two years ago, the Rebels were not predicted to finish in last place in the SEC’s Western Division. Instead, a poll of SEC and national media tabbed Ole Miss third in the West, and the Rebels received eight votes for first place in the division, while Alabama and LSU received 11 each. Despite being predicted last both years, the Rebels claimed the 2007 division title in Kennedy’s first year at the helm and finished third a season ago.
In various preseason publications, Ole Miss has been predicted to finish as high as first in the division (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) and is tabbed as an NCAA Tournament team by Athlon, ESPN.com Bracketology and The Sporting News, among others.
Leading a potent returning backcourt is sophomore point guard Chris Warren, a preseason All-SEC second team pick by the media. He will be joined by juniors Eniel Polynice and David Huertas and sophomores Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham off last year’s squad.
Sophomore Malcolm White is the lone returning big man. However, a talented group of three freshmen and a junior college transfer will join White in the frontcourt.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Division II power North Alabama is coming off a 27-9 season that saw the Lions finish atop the eastern division of the Gulf South Conference and advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA D-II Tournament. UNA returns nine lettermen and three starts from last year’s team, including 300-pound senior center Thomas Fraise, who put up 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest last season. The Lions will play Mississippi State in a regular-season game on Nov. 20 this season.
OLE MISS-UNA SERIES
The two schools have never met in the regular season, but they did play a preseason exhibition in 2006. Ole Miss won that game, Andy Kennedy’s first exhibition as Rebel coach, by a 108-103 score. Bam Doyne led five Rebels in double figures with his 21 points. Trey Hampton added 19 and Clarence Sanders 14 as Ole Miss never trailed in the contest.
Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. Assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham and played collegiately at UAB, while operations assistant Robi Coker hails from Skirum. Strength coach Matt Turner recently joined the Ole Miss staff after a one-year stint as the head strength coach at Alabama State University. In addition, head coach Andy Kennedy spent three years playing at UAB and later served assistant coaching stints for both the Blazers and the South Alabama Jaguars.
MEDIA TAB OLE MISS THIRD IN SEC WEST, CHRIS WARREN PRESEASON ALL-SEC 2ND TEAM
A select panel of SEC and national media picked Ole Miss to repeat its third-place finish in the SEC West and tabbed Rebel sophomore Chris Warren second-team All-SEC in its preseason poll released Monday, Oct. 20. Ole Miss was picked third behind Alabama and LSU in a close battle for the SEC West title, while Tennessee took the top spot overall and in the East. The media predicted Ole Miss to finish last in the SEC West each of the last two years, but instead Andy Kennedy guided the Rebel program to a share of the 2007 division title in his first season and to a third-place finish and NIT Final Four berth a year ago.
CELEBRATING THE FIRST 100 YEARS
Ole Miss will promote a season-long celebration of the first 100 years of its hoops history during the 2008-09 campaign. Ole Miss Basketball began on Jan. 28, 1909, with a game against the Memphis Physicians, and has been an integral part of University life ever since. The Rebels have suited up and played games every year but 1918 and 1944, missing those due to World Wars I and II.
The 100 Years Celebration will include a special page on the official athletics web site, OleMissSports.com, as well as a series of honored guests and highlights from the past during home games, climaxed by a reunion of some of the top players in school history at the Feb. 21 game vs. Georgia. Stay tuned to OleMissSports.com for more information as the season progresses.
SEC’S BEST BACKCOURT?
With the top five members of last year’s backcourt all returning, including last year’s leading scorer Chris Warren (15.8 ppg, 4.5 apg) and junior starters Eniel Polynice (10.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg) and David Huertas (10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Ole Miss might have one of the top sets of guards in the SEC. At least one publication (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) rated the Rebels’ backcourt best in the SEC in its preseason magazine.
DREAMS OF A BIG DANCE
After coming tantilizingly close to an NCAA Tournament bid in each of Andy Kennedy’s first two seasons at the helm, the Rebels look to break into the “Big Dance” this season. Kennedy’s squad is now completely comprised of his own recruits, and the Rebels will try to build on the momentum of last year’s 24-win season and NIT Final Four appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Ole Miss last earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2001-02. The NIT appearances of the last two years broke a string of four straight seasons without a postseason berth from 2003-06.
Ole Miss returns the majority of its backcourt from last season, but suffered “heavy” losses along the front line by the departure of three senior big men. Gone are 6-foot-8, 262-pound All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis, 6-foot-8, 240-pound starting forward Kenny Williams and 6-foot-8, 242-pound forward Jermey Parnell. The lone returning frontcourt member is sophomore Malcolm White, who averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in just 6.7 minutes per game last year. Ole Miss will therefore be relying on several young, but talented, newcomers to fill the big shoes left by those three seniors that helped Ole Miss rank second in the SEC and 12th nationally in rebounding.
OLE MISS TO HOST COACHES VS. CANCER EVENT
The Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Kickoff Luncheon for the Coaches vs. Cancer program will be held this Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Indoor Practice Facility Banquet Room on campus. Admission is a $25 donation, and all proceeds raised for the event will go to the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer. Food will be provided by Ole Miss Dining Services, and door prize and auction items will be given out. Tickets can be secured at Buffalo Peak Outfitters at 1501 West Jackson Avenue in Oxford or by contacting Sheila Horne at (662) 236-7723 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please RSVP by Saturday.
Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy will be on hand to share some insights into this upcoming season. The guest speaker for the luncheon will be Ole Miss alum and current faculty member Ralph B. Vance, Sr., M.D., FACP, past President of the American Cancer Society. Dr Vance is Professor of Medicine/Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine.
WARREN PARTICIPATES IN ALL-STAR PG CAMP
Following his outstanding freshman season at Ole Miss, Chris Warren was one of 11 of the nation's top college point guards invited to participate in Nike's Steve Nash Skills Academy in Newark, N.J., over the summer.
Each of Nike's Skills Academies features elite high school and college players at their position. The athletes have the opportunity to receive personal instruction from the NBA athlete along with a first class group coaches from all levels.
Joining Warren at the camp was Davidson's Stephen Curry, South Carolina's Devan Downey, Connecticut's Jerome Dyson, Pittsburgh's Levance Fields, Baylor's Curtis Jerrells, Florida's Jai Lucas, VCU's Eric Maynor, Miami's Jack McClinton, Duke's Greg Paulus and Boston College's Tyrese Rice.
KENNEDY’S CONTRACT EXTENDED THROUGH 2012
Ole Miss extended the contract of men's basketball head coach Andy Kennedy through June 30, 2012, approved on May 22 by the State College Board.
In his two years with the Rebels, Kennedy has turned around the program and directed the team to back-to-back postseason berths, including the 2008 NIT Final Four at New York City's Madison Square Garden. He earned 2007 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Rebels to an SEC Western Division championship.
Kennedy has guided the team to consecutive 20-win campaigns for a total of 45 victories, which is a school record for an Ole Miss coach in his first two seasons. He is just the fourth coach in SEC men's hoops history to pile up 45 or more wins in two years, joining Eddie Sutton (Kentucky), Tubby Smith (Georgia and Kentucky) and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee). Kennedy already boasts two of the nine 20-win seasons in program history, and his Rebels eclipsed more than 25 school statistical records this past season.
PACKING THE PAD
Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" has proven to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and third-year head coach Andy Kennedy only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 32-3 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins in 2006-07.
The Oxford crowds have jumped on board, too. The 2007-08 season averages of 7,301 fans per game and 8,994 fans at each SEC contest both set school records. The LSU game saw the Tad Pad’s second-highest attendance ever with 9,328 fans and the Florida game crowd of 9,304 ranks sixth in arena annals. Six of last year’s crowds ranked among the top 20 in facility history.
Ole Miss has won 163 of its last 198 games (.823 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 398-182 (.686 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
REBELS ON TV
At least 15 games will be televised this season, marking the 11th straight season that the Rebels will have played 10 or more TV games. Nationally televised contests include Dec. 18 vs. Louisville (ESPN), Jan. 27 vs. Kentucky (ESPN) and Feb. 7 at Vanderbilt (CBS). Ole Miss followed up a school-record 22 TV appearances in 2006-07 with 20 more last year.