Leading the Way

By Chris Purser

Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

 

As the 2007-08 version of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team takes the court, there is no denying who is one of the central leading forces behind the Rebels.

 

Senior Brian Smith has been waiting in the wings behind Todd Abernethy, one of the most prolific players both on and off the court in Ole Miss history. With Abernethy now gone, Smith has become the guy that the other players, especially the Rebels’ six freshmen, look up to.

 

“It’s an honor to be a leader on this team,” said Smith, the youngest of Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith’s three sons. “It’s an honor being a veteran mentoring our freshmen. Their basketball I.Q. is high. They make my job easier.”

 

Over the past three seasons, Smith and Abernethy split time at the point guard. Both were known as the play-callers, making sure guys were where they needed to be both offensively and defensively. Smith will now split time with freshmen Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, and it is the senior’s leadership that is starting to show in Warren and Gaskins, who have played key roles in Rebel wins over Mississippi Valley State and South Alabama.

 

“Chris is a little different than Todd,” Smith said. “Todd was a big, athletic guy who led both on and off the court. Chris is starting to become that guy. He’s probably the fastest guy in the SEC. We just have to work on his turnovers.”

 

Smith arrived at Ole Miss in 2004 under then head coach Rod Barnes and immediately made his presence felt, playing in 17 games for the Rebels. In his first season, Smith posted key minutes at LSU. In his second season, Smith saw action in all 30 games for the Rebels, topping the team in 3-point percentage in conference play.

 

Last season, Smith saw action in 31 games, drawing two starts under first-year Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy. He set his career high for points in a game with 10 against Mississippi Valley State, while making 15-of-38 threes for the season.

 

“Coach Kennedy and Coach Barnes are the same in that they stress defense,” Smith said. “Coach Kennedy does give you more leeway with the offense in that he wants you to take the open shot if you are playing hard defense. He will take you out for not doing the little things like hustling, going for the rebound and defending your man.”

 

As he enters his final season on the court for the Rebels, Smith credits his parents for the accomplishments he has achieved.


“I go to both my parents for advice,” Smith said. “My dad can help me a little more than my mom when it comes to issues on the court, but my mom has been real helpful in a lot of the little things in life, and teaching me how to be a leader.”

 

As for this year’s version of the Rebels, it will be Brian teaching them how to be leaders.


 

 

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